Teenagers go through big physical changes in puberty. “The transition from the childhood to the teen years, nutritional needs increase with the rapid physical growth that occurs during those years,” says APHA member Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN. So, healthy foods for teenagers are very essential for their overall health.
Teens need a lot of energy that comes from calories on a daily basis. Requirement of calories for teenage boys and girls are different
- Teenage boys: 2,500 to 3,000 calories;
- Teenage girls: 2,200 calories.
Iron is essential for teens, but especially for teen girls, as they’ll lose more of it after starting menstruation, Larson says. Good sources of iron include meat, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, she says.
“Another group of nutrients that’s important to be seeking out daily for bone health is calcium and vitamin D,” Larson says. “And good sources of these nutrients are low-fat milk, other dairy foods and dark green vegetables, along with fortified foods like fortified juice and cereal.”
Good nutrition for teens starts at home. Larson says parents who want their teens to practice better nutrition should make healthy food readily accessible.
Parents should also encourage teens to eat breakfast before school and to pack their lunch during the school week, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
According to USDA, teen girls need four servings of vegetables a day, versus five servings a day for teen boys. Teen girls also need three servings of fruit daily versus four for teen boys. However, both need three servings a day of dairy such as cheese, milk or yogurt.
Table of Contents
Healthy Foods for Teenagers
Here are the healthy foods that are beneficial for teenagers:
Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocado is healthy for hearts. It contains 25 milligrams per ounce of a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Regular consumption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols has been seen to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
It is good for vision. Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that are especially concentrated in the tissues in the eyes where they provide antioxidant protection to help minimize damage, including from ultraviolet light.
Avocado is beneficial for bones. Half of an avocado provides approximately 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K. Vitamin K is often overshadowed by calcium and vitamin D which is important for maintaining healthy bones.
Adequate intake of folate from avocado has shown promise in protecting against colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancers.
Avocado is high in fiber with approximately 6-7 grams per half fruit. Eating foods with natural fiber can help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer. Adequate fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which are crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool.
According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.
Evidence suggests that eating more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, can help reduce the risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Carrots are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Carrots contain vitamin A. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a lack of vitamin A is one of the main preventable causes of blindness in children.
The antioxidants and phytochemicals in carrots may help regulate blood sugar.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend consuming a fiber-rich diet and increasing potassium while reducing sodium intake to protect against high blood pressure and heart disease. Carrots offer a good balance of these nutrients.
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
The antioxidant content of broccoli may be one of its main boons for human health. Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit or neutralize cell damage caused by free radicals. This can lead to reduced inflammation and an overall health-protective effect.
Broccoli contains various bioactive compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation in your body’s tissues.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain various bioactive compounds that may reduce cell damage caused by certain chronic diseases.
Broccoli is also a good source of fiber. Some research indicates that higher intake of dietary fiber is associated with lower blood sugar and improved diabetic control.
One study noticed significantly reduced triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels in people who were treated with a powdered broccoli sprout supplement.
Cauliflower health benefits includes boosting ultraviolet radiation protection, fighting inflammation, lessen heart and circulatory system issues, lessen cancer risk, supplying vitamin K to the body, improving digestion and detoxifying the body, supporting healthy weight loss, boosting brain health, keeping hormones in check, supporting healthy pregnancy and boosting the immune system.
Cabbage is very low in calories, it has an impressive nutrient profile. It contains small amounts of other micronutrients, including vitamin A, iron and riboflavin.
It is rich in vitamin B6 and folate, both of which are essential for many important processes in the body, including energy metabolism and the normal functioning of the nervous system. Cabbage is high in fiber and contains powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and sulfur compounds.
It’s a powerful antioxidant. it has been extensively researched for its potential cancer-fighting qualities. It is a powerful antioxidant. In fact, it has been extensively researched for its potential cancer-fighting qualities.
Vitamin C works to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, which has been associated with many chronic diseases, including cancer.
Red cabbage contains powerful compounds called anthocyanins. In a study including 93,600 women, researchers found that those with a higher intake of anthocyanin-rich foods had a much lower risk of a heart attack.
The health benefits of celery are due to the excellent sources of beneficial enzymes and antioxidants. Celery is loaded with essential minerals and vitamins such as folate, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Regular consumption of celery can help protect cardiovascular health. Moreover, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of celery make it become an ideal food for patients with high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as heart disease. Celery also has numerous amazing benefits for skin, liver, eye and cognitive health.
Yogurts are high in protein, calcium, vitamins, and probiotics, which can enhance the gut microbiota. These can offer protection for bones and teeth and help prevent digestive problems.
Probiotics may boost the immune system. In 2014, researchers found that consuming yogurt may help protect against type 2 diabetes. Other types of dairy product did not appear to impact the likelihood of developing the condition.
Not all yogurts are healthful. Those without added sugar or unnecessary additives can be a healthful addition to the diet.
Milk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including “nutrients of concern”. It provides potassium, B12, calcium and vitamin D, which are lacking in many diets. Milk is also a good source of vitamin A, magnesium, zinc and thiamine. Additionally, it’s an excellent source of protein and contains hundreds of different fatty acids, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s.
Milk is a rich source of protein (casein and whey protein) which is necessary for many vital functions in your body, including growth and development, cellular repair and immune system regulation.
Drinking milk has long been associated with healthy bones. This is due to its powerful combination of nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and (in grass-fed, full-fat dairy) vitamin K2.
Cashews are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and a good source of protein.
The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in cashews can help decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attack.
Cashews are one of the few food sources that are high in copper. Copper also plays an important role in the maintenance of collagen and elastin, major structural components of our bodies.
The magnesium in cashews is also important for bone formation as it helps with the assimilation of calcium into the bone. Manganese, another mineral in cashews, has been shown to prevent osteoporosis in combination with calcium and copper.
Walnuts provide healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Walnuts have higher antioxidant activity than any other common nut. This activity comes from vitamin E, melatonin and plant compounds called polyphenols, which are particularly high in the papery skin of walnuts.
Walnuts are significantly higher in omega-3 fat than any other nut. Omega-3 fat from plants, including walnuts, is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It’s an essential fat, meaning you have to get it from your diet.
Inflammation is at the root of many diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, and can be caused by oxidative stress. The polyphenols in walnuts can help fight this oxidative stress and inflammation.
Eating walnuts not only nourishes you but also beneficial for bacteria that live in your gut. This promotes the health of your gut and helps to reduce disease risk.
Walnuts contain nutrients that help protect your brain from damaging inflammation and support good brain function.
Salmon is a good fish to get your teen hooked on because it contains heart-healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. Along with its disease-fighting capabilities, omega-3 helps reduce the risk of depression and minimizes arthritis symptoms.
12. Lean meat
Lean meat is a good source of protein with a lower fat content and therefore a lower calorie content. Skinless chicken, turkey and red meat such as pork chops with the fat trimmed off are examples of lean meat.
This rich source of protein, body needs to build muscles, organs and bodily fluids. The body needs to have adequate supply of protein to repair damage cells.
Lean meat is a good source of iron and vitamin B-complex. Iron promotes healthy red blood production and prevent anemia. Iron is important in increasing energy in the body.
A study conducted by RMIT University in Australia proved that eating lean meat can actually lower plasma cholesterol and contribute to an increase in Omega 3 levels in tissues.
Lean meat has a lot of B-complex vitamins, zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids. An increase in Omega 3 fatty acids protects against inflammation and help ease symptoms of anxiety. This improves the mood and helps people to cope better with anxiety and stress.
13. Whole grain
Whole grains have been shown to have many positive health benefits in terms of reducing risk for chronic diseases. Exposing children to whole grains at an early age sets the foundation to a healthy eating lifestyle.
The more whole grains teenagers eat, the leaner they are and the less likely they are to develop diabetes, a recent University of Minnesota study found.
Whole grains are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals with a range of known health benefits. They help to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers and can help your teen feel fuller for longer periods of time, by providing them with a sustained release of energy to the body. Whole grains can also help with weight control as they’re more filling.
Some important nutrients found in whole grains are carbohydrate, protein, fiber, vitamin-B, vitamin-E, folate and iron. When your teens include whole grain bread products in their diet, they can still enjoy the softness of bread they love, while getting the benefits of nutritious whole grains.
Legumes are high in dietary fiber which helps to keep our bowels healthy. They are also a good source of soluble fiber which can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Legumes are a source of carbohydrate and have a low glycaemic index (GI), which means they are broken down more slowly so you feel fuller for longer. This makes them particularly good food for preventing and managing diabetes.
Other benefits of legumes include: High in B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium, good source of folate, antioxidants and low in saturated fat.
Examples of legumes are split peas, canalini beans, kidney beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lupine and red, green or brown lentils.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great choice for growing teens.
Eggs are a complete protein food that required for new cell generation and regeneration of cells.
These are an excellent source of lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are essential for healthy eyes. Eggs contain choline that is important for the development of brain. Choline is also responsible for the molecules of the brain which signal the nerves.
Eggs contain Omega-3s that helps in brain development and cognitive memory. Eggs are also an excellent source of vitamin-D that is important for the bone health of teenagers. It contains 9 essential amino acids which helps in the growth of healthy nails and hair of teens.
Eggs contain the right balance of saturated and unsaturated fats which make it an excellent snack for growing bodies.
Keep your teens healthy
This is the time of physical growth in teenagers. Good nutrition is essential for growing teenagers. Encourage the child to eat healthy food and snacks and avoid the junks. To maintain their weights and meet the requirements for essential nutrition is vital in this period of physical development. So, develop habits in your teenagers of eating good foods to keep them healthy.
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