By Lisa James | Edited by Elena Doxey
Today’s teenagers are on the ball when it comes to the latest technology, fashion, and music – but ask them about proper nutrition and you will most likely be met with a blank stare. Teens’ busy lifestyles and carefree attitudes toward food can leave them nutritionally deficient. Late night pizza cravings and grab-and-go snacks can lead to dietary lapses, which in turn can set the stage for poor eating habits down the road. Helping to lay the groundwork for your teenager’s nutrition today can put them on a path of well-being for years to come.
Teens experience growth spurts during puberty, which contribute to significant increases in height and weight. These spurts can last between two-to-three years, and account for roughly 20% of their height and 50% of their weight once they reach adulthood. These changes are spurred by increased hormonal activity – and these include hormones which control bone maturation.
Since this growth is fueled by an increase in food intake, it is critical that a teen’s nutrition includes the proper balance of calories and nutrients. The average girl needs between 2,200 and 2,400 calories per day, while the average boy needs between 2,500 and 3,000 calories. Micronutrients also need to rise. For example, girls between the ages of 14 and 18 require 1,300 mg of calcium per day, compared with 800 mg for girls who are between four and eight years-old.
How Teens Should Eat
The first step toward meeting these teen nutritional needs starts at the family dinner table. Sharing at least one healthy meal each day is not only a great way to ensure your teen(s) are getting the proper nutrition they need, but it also encourages quality family time, which can get lost in their busy schedules.
Try to eliminate junk food from your pantry and replace it with healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit, organic peanut butter on whole-wheat bread, or high-quality energy bars for teens who are on-the-go.
Having these snacks handy and easily accessible will encourage smart snacking, while giving you peace of mind knowing your kids are eating healthy. Remember, kids will follow your lead and learn from your good example – so practice what you preach and keep a healthy pantry.
Making Up Shortfalls
We can’t be everywhere to see what our kids are eating – and we can’t be blind to the fact that they’ll sneak their favorite foods when you’re not around. This is where a quality teen multivitamin can be your best advocate to help cover any nutritional deficits your kids may incur. According to the USDA, three out of every four girls don’t get enough iron, while two of every three boys are low in zinc. (And everybody, it seems, doesn’t get enough vitamin D.)
An ideal multivitamin has formulations tailored to the needs of each gender. Boys need plenty of amino acids, which are the building blocks for all that extra muscle their bodies are developing. Zinc (especially in a complex that includes magnesium and aspartic acid) also fuels muscle growth in addition to supporting healthy sexual development.
A supplement for girls should include herbs such as cranberry and fenugreek to support urinary health and proper hormone balance. Cranberry, combined with a probiotic such as S. salivarius K12, can provide anti-blemish protection for both genders. Boys and girls also need vitamin K2 for healthy bone growth, in addition to adequate amounts of calcium and (as mentioned above) vitamin D.
Let’s face it: The jury is still out on understanding our teens, but understanding teen nutrition will help you guide them into making proper dietary choices – now and for the rest of their lives.
If you want a boost, our Source of Life® Power Teen® Multivitamin is a great supplement for your teen’s diet.