Adolescence is the transition period between childhood and adulthood

Nutritional health during adolescence is important for supporting the growing body and for preventing future health problems.

Increased Nutritional Needs

The physical changes of adolescence have a direct influence on a person's nutritional needs. Teenagers need additional calories, protein, calcium, and iron.


Boys ages 11 to 18 need between 2,500 and 2,800 calories each day.

Adolescent girls need approximately 2,200 calories each day.

This is a significant increase from childhood requirements. To meet these calorie needs, teens should choose a variety of healthful foods, such as lean protein sources, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.


We need it for ______________? (think Popeye and his spinach)

Adolescents need between 45 and 60 grams of protein each day.

Most teens easily meet this requirement with their intake of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and dairy products. Protein is also available from certain vegetable sources, including tofu and other soy foods, beans, and nuts.


Adequate calcium intake is essential for development of strong and dense ___________________during the adolescent growth spurt.

What happens if teens do not get the required amount of calcium during their growth spurt?

In order to get the required 1,200 milligrams of calcium, teens are encouraged to consume three to four servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Good sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified juices, and calcium-fortified cereals.


As adolescents gain muscle mass, more iron is needed to help their new muscle cells obtain oxygen for energy.

What happens if teens suffer from Iron deficiency? The number one symptom is _______________.

Adolescent boys need 12 milligrams of iron each day

Adolescent girls need 15 milligrams.

Good sources of iron include beef, chicken, pork, legumes (including beans and peanuts), enriched or whole grains, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collards, and kale.

Eating and Snacking Patterns

Do teens sit down for three meals a day?

How many of your teens skip meals?

What is the number one meal they skip?

What is likely to happen when a teen skips a meal?

Eating meals and snacking away from home puts the responsibility for good food choices right in adolescents' hands.

Some healthful snack ideas include fresh fruit, sliced vegetables with low-fat dip, low-fat yogurt, low-fat string cheese, peanut butter and crackers, baked chips, granola bars, and graham crackers. Juices, fruit drinks, and sodas are usually very high in calories from natural or added sugar, so they should be consumed in moderation.

Potential Nutrition-Related Problems

Adolescents are at risk for obesity, obesity-related chronic diseases, and eating disorders.

Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease.

All over the world, adolescent obesity is on the rise. This has led to an increase in obesity-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Experts believe this rise in obesity is due to lack of physical activity and an increase in the amount of fast food and "junk food" available to adolescents. Staying active and eating foods that are low in fat and sugar promote a healthy weight for teens.

Eating Disorders.

Adolescents tend to be very conscious of appearances and may feel pressure to be thin or to look a certain way. Fear of gaining weight may lead to overly restrictive eating habits. Some teens resort to self-induced vomiting or laxative use to control their weight. Both boys and girls are affected by eating disorders. Teens who suspect they have a problem with body image or eating habits should talk to a trusted adult.

High-Risk Groups

Certain groups of adolescents may be at risk for nutritional inadequacies.

Pregnant Teens.

When a teenager becomes pregnant, she needs enough nutrients to support both her baby and her own continued growth and physical development. If her nutritional needs are not met, her baby may be born with low birth weight or other health problems. For the best outcome, pregnant teens need to seek prenatal care and nutrition advice early in their pregnancy.


Adolescents involved in athletics may feel pressure to be at a particular weight or to perform at a certain level. Some young athletes may be tempted to adopt unhealthful behaviors such as crash dieting, taking supplements to improve performance, or eating unhealthful foods to fulfill their hearty appetites. A balanced nutritional outlook is important for good health and athletic performance.


A vegetarian diet can be a very healthy option. However, adolescents who follow a vegetarian diet, whether for religious or personal reasons, need to carefully plan their intake to get the protein and minerals they need. Strict vegetarians (those who do not eat eggs or dairy products), also known as vegans, may need nutritional supplements to meet their needs for calcium, vitamin B12, and iron.


Even when you are in deep meditation and supposedly ‘blanking your mind', your brain is still active.

The question is, are you feeding brain optimum nutrition for optimum output? Or are you just mindlessly shoving down empty and dangerous junk. The equation is very simple; garbage in garbage out. When you eat better, you feel better, perform better, and generally, have a positive attitude to life.

So does food really matter to brain power?

Yes it does and in a big way. The old cliche that ‘we are what we eat' is so true and will remain true for the rest of eternity. Generally, all nutrients are important for the brain, but scientists agree that the most crucial include vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B3, niacin, folate, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and the long chain fatty acids found in olive oil, fish, and nuts.

No nutrition = no neurotransmitter = NO BRAIN POWER!

These nutrients are responsible for the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send messages to and across the nerve endings of the brain and the rest of our body. Therefore, the logic is fairly simple; no nutrition, no neurotransmitter, and therefore, NO brain function. Is it any wonder that when you are hungry or under a lot of stress and cannot eat probably, your brain shuts down and you experience that ever irritating mental block?

Do teenagers need Vitamins?

If for any reason daily requirements of these important nutrients cannot be met through a regular diet, it's advisable to take a quality supplement to safeguard against nutritional deficiencies, especially for teenagers. Please always ask a nutritionist, dietician or pharmacist on which supplements are best. The rule of thumb, however, is to aim for more organic ones that are easily absorbed and are bio-available. Also remember that since brain development begins in the womb, teenagers at their developmental stage should eat well. A simple guideline for attaining these brain nutrients is to eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods. But importantly, if you aim for vegetables, fruits, nuts, and dairy products you can be sure that you are covered and your brain will be on target.


Antioxidants are another important set of nutrients to boost you. Antioxidants are a group of substances that protect tissues, cells, and important compounds such as proteins and the DNA (the imprint that defines who you are and what you do basically), against the destructive power of oxygen and its relatives. Berries such as strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, mulberry, and blackberry contain some powerful antioxidants. These include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene (the red, yellow and/or red substances that give carrots, peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, pumpkin and berries etc. their revered colours), as well as selenium and manganese.

Other antioxidants under much scientific study include Coenzyme Q10, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols and glutathione. You need these for your brain too.

Next time your boss, wife, husband, friend or teenager is grouchy and flies off the handle for no apparent reason, stay calm; take in a deep breath, remain wise, and gently provide your piece of good advice pointing them in the optimum nutrition path.
Better still, always keep some fruit, nuts, berries and some yoghurt handy and offer them. Save a mood, save a life, and preserve good relations, send nutrition to the rescue for brain power! Cheers.

The following guidelines will help you give your child a nutritious diet:

Offer five servings of fruits and vegetables a day

Choose healthy sources of protein, such as lean meat, nuts and eggs

Serve whole-grain breads and cereals because they are high in fiber

Broil, grill or steam foods instead of frying them

Limit fast food and junk food

Offer water and milk instead of sugary fruit drinks and sodas

Please write down all the vegetables and fruits you had today.

What healthy sort of protein (lean meant, nuts and eggs) did you eat today?

What recipe do you make that broils, grills or steams food instead frying them? Does it taste good?

What is one way you can help your teenager limit how much junk food they eat?



All natural doesn't mean all-healthy!


Check off the teen that needs extra dietary requirements

___ Athlete

___ Pregnant Teen

___ Vegetarian

___ Obese Teen

Check off the food that is high in protein

___ Milk

___ Steak

___ Corn Dog

___ Cabbage

What is an anti-oxidant?

___ A nutrient that burns fat from your body

___ A nutrient that evaporates when digested

___ A nutrient that protects important compounds in your body

A teenager requires the same nutrients as an adult

___ yes

___ no

Teenagers can never gain weight because their metabolism is so high

___ yes

___ no

Teenage boys need a higher calorie diet than girls

____ yes

____ no

When something is advertised as all -natural it's always healthy

___ true

___ false

Symptoms of your brain lacking nutrition

___ feel energetic

___ feel happy

___ feel grouchy

___ feel hungry

A Neurotransmitter is

___ a protein in your brain that sends messages

___ a nutritient in your brain that helps brain function

___ is an a neuron in your brain that helps brain activity

___ a chemical in your brain that sends messages to your body

Vegetarians may lack

____ minerals and proteins

____ anti-oxidants and proteins

____ calcium

____ vitamins

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