Male and female teens alike, as well as adults, can follow the same daily dietary recommendations. Male teens usually need more calories than females due to their size and activity, but both should eat the same types of foods. Guys should consume nutrient-dense foods and refrain from eating nutritionally empty foods. Diet should be balanced with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and prevent illness.
Calories are the body’s source of energy. Teenagers need more calories than adults because they are rapidly growing and developing, are more active and have a faster metabolism. MayoClinic.com says a teenage boy needs 2,000 to 3,200 calories per day. Generally, teen guys who are bigger or more active will require more calories than smaller, less active ones. Teenagers can monitor their weight to determine if they are eating an appropriate amount of calories. Weight gain may be a sign of excess calorie intake. A teenager who does not consume enough calories may experience weight loss, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 45 to 65 percent of calories should come from carbohydrate, 10 to 30 percent from protein and 25 to 35 percent from fat. This is equivalent to 6 ounces of grains, 2 ½ cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk and 5 ½ ounces of meat or protein for a teenage boy who eats about 2,000 calories per day.
Guys and girls should anchor their diet with nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and unsaturated fats. A fast and easy way to build a healthy, balanced plate is to make it 25 percent meat or protein, 25 percent grain or starch and 50 percent fruits and vegetables. In general, a colorful plate is a healthy one. The colorful pigments in fruits, veggies, nuts, beans and whole grains contain phytochemicals and antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and lycopene. Phytochemicals and antioxidants protect the body and help prevent chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The USDA encourages everyone to limit saturated fat, sodium and added sugar in their diet. Foods high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar contain empty calories, which means they are high in calories but low in nutrients. Excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain, obesity and chronic diseases. Saturated fat should make up less than 10 percent of a teen’s daily calories. Teens should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Limit saturated fat and sodium intake by avoiding fast foods, deep-fried foods, frozen or convenience meals and packaged snack foods. While there are no quantitative recommendations for added sugar, the USDA says to limit major sources of added sugar like soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, desserts and candy. Ingredients that indicate the use of an added sugar are fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, raw sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose and crystal dextrose.
Snacks can be an important source of energy during a teenager’s busy day. Healthy snacks can be easy to prepare, transport and eat. Whole fruits, whole grain crackers with cheese or peanut butter, low-fat yogurt, fruit smoothies, hard-boiled eggs, dried fruit, nuts and trail mix are all great snacks for an active teenager.
Exercise can help a teenager control his weight; build muscle and reduce body fat; strengthen bones, increase flexibility and balance; improve self-esteem and mood; improve performance in school; and reduce the risk of health problems. Federal guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week. Activities that count include physical education class, exercise classes and competitive or recreational sports. Encourage teens to be more active by limiting time in front of the TV, computer and video games.