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What Should I Know About Adolescent Nutrition?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated May 17, 2024
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When it comes to adolescent nutrition, you should know that specific needs include increased calcium, protein, and iron intake. It is also important that the adolescent gets an ample amount of calories in his diet to provide the energy that fuels the growth. You should understand that without the nutrients needed to facilitate the rapid growth, it is possible that adolescent's growth will be prevented from reaching its full potential.

During adolescence, a child undergoes several growth spurts. Among the most crucial nutrients at this stage in life is calcium. As bones begin to grow and lengthen, adolescent calcium needs increase as the mineral is needed to improve bone density. Without adequate calcium supplies, the growing bones might become brittle, which can lead to underdevelopment and osteoporosis later in life. For proper adolescent nutrition, a minimum of 0.04 ounces (about 1.2 grams) of calcium per day is recommended.

Protein is needed to allow muscle growth, as well as repair any damaged muscle. Should an adolescent fail to meet the suggested nutritional allowance of 1.6 to 2.1 ounces (45 to 60 grams) of protein a day, his muscle development will likely be stunted. Thankfully, this is the most easily addressed among the different adolescent nutrition needs, as typical adolescent diets consist of protein-rich foods.

This stage of rapid development also increases adolescent iron needs. A developing child's body utilizes a lot of oxygen to provide energy for the necessary growth processes. Iron helps facilitate the distribution of oxygen through the body. Adolescent nutrition needs for iron in boys fall around 0.0004 ounces (about 12 milligrams), while girls need roughly 0.0005 ounces (about 15 milligrams). A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia, weakness, and fatigue.

Proper adolescent nutrition also raises the child's recommended caloric intake. Adolescent calorie needs increase by a significant amount, as energy from calories is needed both to fuel the body's rapid growth and to support a much more active lifestyle. Boys typically need a minimum of 2,500 calories (10.46 kilojoules) per day, while girls require roughly 2,200 calories (9.20 kilojoules) per day.

Although an adolescent's appetite is significantly increased during this stage, it is recommended that parents provide ample guidance regarding the child's diet. Proper adolescent nutrition can only be achieved through proper eating habits, something that most adolescents are not concerned with. In cases where a proper diet cannot be followed, supplements may be taken to promote good adolescent nutrition.

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