During puberty and adolescence there is an accelerated growth and development, so energy requirement increases, which depends on sex, stage of development, body composition and physical activity level.
It is important to monitor adequate adolescents growth by preventing nutrient deficiencies such as calcium and vitamin D; therefore, sufficient dairy products should be consumed (low-fat milk cheese, plain yogurt), as well as fish, enriched foods and be exposed enough time to the sun.
Anemia could be present in girls, and thus good sources of iron must be procured, such as red meats, chicken and fish, egg, legumes (regular or fava beans, lentils) and green leafy vegetables. Eating iron-rich foods with vitamin C improves its absorption; for example, a dish with meat and broccoli. Coffee and tea might reduce iron absorption by up to 50% when consumed with food.
The recommended servings per day for adolescents are the following:
In order to support the adolescent to follow a correct diet, it is suggested to have healthy food and snack options available at home, which can also be taken to school or other activities. This should be done by taking into account their preferences, but limiting high-fat and sugar food offer.
During adolescence, special attention must be paid to deficiencies’ prevention, since it is frequent that that they adopt restrictive energy diets to lose weight (fad diets) or even develope eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or compulsive eating (commonly known as ‘binge eating’).
Although it is difficult to identify them, there are certain signs such as eating too much or too little, excessive worry about weight or body image, exercising too much, sudden mood swings or losing weight very fast. In these cases it is essential to visit a specialist for timely treatment.
During this stage, overweight or obesity can begin or be exacerbated; also, adoption of harmful habits such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages may be present, which are risk factors for developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension. It is important to talk to adolescents about these issues so that they are aware of the risks involved. If harmful habits or chronic diseases are acquired in this stage, it is likely they continue through adulthood. Chronic diseases that were not prevalent few years ago until adulthood, now begin to progress since adolescence, with greater severity at a younger age.
In summary, it is important to take care of the adolescents’ diet besides encouraging regular physical activity and adequate sleep habits to allow an adequate development, in addition to preventing eating disorders and harmful habits adoption that might predispose them to develop chronic diseases.
National Academy of Medicine. Food and Physical Activity Guidelines in context of overweight and obesity in the Mexican population. Available from https://www.anmm.org.mx/publicaciones/CAnivANM150/L29_ANM_Guias_alimentarias.pdf.
Escott-Stump S, Mahan LK. 2009. Krause´s Food & Nutrition Therapy. 12th edition.
Ministry of Health. Official Mexican Standard NOM-043-SSA2-2012. Basic health services: Promotion and Education for health in food. Criteria to provide guidance. 2013. Available from: http://www.dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5285372&fecha=22/01/2013
National Health Service. Healthy eating for teens. 2015. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Goodfood/Pages/healthy-eating-teens.aspx