Nutritional needs: How many calories should a teen eat?

When we talk about our nutritional needs, at an adult stage, there’s not much change in the requirements unless you are going through a massive change. In teenage years, however, the body is going through several changes, and therefore requires a very different nutritional intake than in the early adolescent years. If you are a parent/ guardian wondering, ‘how many calories should a teen eat?’, this article will help you out.

The years leading up to teenage are also crucial because they are preparing you for puberty. Your body as an adolescent and as a teenager is on very different levels of development and maturity. This is to say, in teenagers or the years leading up to it, the diet of a child increases significantly to make up for the energy the body requires. This can vary depending upon a child’s body, involvement in physical activities, and generally like or dislike of food. Regardless of all this, calories for a teenager are important to track and supplement properly.

A healthy relationship with food

Adolescence to teenage is the period where many areas of a child are all undergrowth. This growth in many cases is permanent throughout the rest of the person’s life. Especially the things kids learn in this stage build the foundation that stays with them forever if they aren’t able to unlearn them. It is important to develop a sense of positive body image and a healthy relationship with food at this stage. It is very integral to how that kid grows up to see food, their own body, and how they consume it. This is also a stage of fun that is often considered harmless but can have stark consequences if the kid starts to internalize them.

They get very conscious about their appearance and looks and try to maintain it the best way possible. And sometimes that way is not healthy or positive. As a guardian and/or parent, you can help your child learn positive body image for their benefit. This can be done in many ways, actively and otherwise. Remember that children are quiet observers, who sometimes unconsciously, follow your steps more than they listen to what you say. Try to develop a habit of practicing what you teach them, don’t fixate on appearances, or restricted diets. Avoid negative talk about your own body too, and most importantly, talk to them, ask about their feelings and thoughts regarding it.

Boys vs Girls

There is a difference in the intake requirements of nutrients between boys and girls. How many calories should a teen eat depends on how much their body requires it? The distinction between boys and girls is made based on their nature of activities. Although, it does not need to be extremely concrete, because you cannot put them in boxes and declare they all might have the same requirements. Some boys are not that sporty, thinner, and shorter than some girls. In this case, they do not require the same nutrients as most of the boys do.

The general requirements are 2,800 calories per day for boys and 2,200 calories per day for girls. These are recommended by USDA and other several food and nutrition organizations. But being rigid with these requirements might not be good, you should know the flexibilities of a human body. Calories are units of energy that help us identify the requirements of a body to function at its max in the present and towards its growth. Your calorie requirement depends on your body and can be different from the standard set.

Ideal Nutrition Intake

Your body requires a good balance of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to maintain a healthy metabolism. These are ideal in-takes for teenagers in their capacity.

One of your body’s main requirements, sugar glucose, is supported by carbohydrates that starch-based and sugar-based foods provide. They also include fiber and other nutrients that help make a large part of the body’s calories. Additionally, there are different types of carbohydrates, mainly simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates that are different in the benefits they provide. Complex carbohydrates are recommended above simple carbohydrates due to their sustained calorie component. A teenager should consume at least 50% of complex carbohydrates. 

American teenagers already have a diet heavy with protein due to their reliance on meat-based meals. They have meat in almost all of their meals, and that makes them all caught up on their protein needs. If not, they have an excess of it. You want to track a healthy intake of protein too, make sure you diversify the meat they’re taking and take a controlled amount of all-over protein nutrients.

We have heard about drinking enough milk for the calcium our body requires since our childhood, and it is the same for teenagers you might be looking after. The calcium is only retained in our body through Vitamin D, if that is insufficient, any part of Calcium in-take will not work. Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc are namely a few minerals and vitamins teenagers tend to miss out on.

  • Dietary Fats

Last on the list is dietary fats required by our bodies to develop consistently. There are healthy fats that develop in our body and assist other nutrients to do their job in the metabolism as well. This is the most tricky nutrient to take care of because it needs to be highly controlled. High cholesterol is dangerous for everyone, but it is especially brutal if a teenager develops it. Cholesterol can choke your arteries if you don’t control its intake. There are two types of fats too, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated being more cholesterol-induced, than unsaturated. Therefore, make sure most of their fat intake is unsaturated and a little part saturated only.

As a parent, it is good to ask questions like how many calories should a teen eat, among other relevant things. We tend to ignore this part because we think it’s quite understood, but learning and understanding the physical requirements by book is not a bad thing. Physical health should be looked after just as much as mental health, in teenagers and adults alike.

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