Nutrition Tips for Girls over 10 and Teenagers @ Reward Me

Nutrition for girls over 10 and teens

Girls change so much between 10 and 18, and their bodies need the right diet now to establish a life-long healthy attitude to food.


A teenager’s busy lifestyle is mostly spent far away from the family’s dining table. However, it’s good for you to be aware of the keystones of a healthy diet so that you can do your best to help your daughter meet her nutritional needs as she grows and her body changes.

Nutrition for girls over 10 and teenagers

The guideline daily amounts (GDAs) we see on packaging can offer a useful estimate of the recommended levels of key nutrients for a balanced daily diet for an average adult woman but what about girls?


Girls 11-14 years 15-18 years
Calories 1850 2100
Fat 70g 80g
Saturated fat 25g 25g
Carbohydrate 230g 265g
Total sugars 90g 105g
Protein 42g 55g
Fibre 20g 24g
Salt 6g 6g



However, even these are only average values for these groups and do not take into account individual activity levels and timing of growth spurts. 
Interestingly, even at this stage, the GDA for fats and carbohydrates are lower for females than for males.

GDA’s only provide values for some of the major nutritional components, however, particularly with teenagers it is often the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals and some of the essential fatty acids that are lacking in their diets.  Sugar and salt are not necessarily so important at this age and it is often the type of fat rather than total fat that needs to be controlled.  The key here is that you know your child, you know if they are over or underweight and you can help control this but you cannot see their vitamin or mineral status.
 

A teenager’s dietary needs

It’s plain to see that any teenager’s body is going through great physical change in just a few years. Growing bones, a change of physique, and other natural shifts mean that good nutritional intake is important.

Foods for energy. Girls and boys at this age should still be physically active, but any busy lifestyle needs lots of ‘fuel’. Carbs are often seen as ‘fattening’, which generally is untrue but they are important for energy. Bring your daughter round to the idea of slower-burning sources of energy like delicious brown breads, wholewheat pasta and oven-baked potato dishes – if she wants to watch the calorie-count, remind her she can eat these without high-fat accompaniments.

Iron. Iron deficiency is common across the British diet and it’s estimated that around 27% of teenage girls suffer from a lack of iron – double the number of boys with a similar problem at this age. Remember that teenage girls, of course, are also losing blood during their monthly period, and while for many girls this can be relatively light each cycle, some teenagers suffer from heavy periods and this will also put demands on their iron levels. Red meat and fortified breakfast cereals are good sources, but make sure your daughter is aware that she needs to have vitamin C at the same time (a glass of fruit juice, for example) to aid iron absorption. If your daughter’s periods have proved to be a problem for her, ask her GP if she thinks an iron supplement is necessary.  Girls also start experimenting with their diet and skipping breakfast is a common mistake.  This is usually triggered by weight concerns, yet the data show those who eat breakfast tend to weigh less.

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Calcium. Many teenagers have left behind the milk drinks of their infancy, but their bodies are still growing and bone-strength is reliant on a good calcium intake (along with vitamin D and phosphorus). Not having enough calcium now can cause brittle bone problems in the years to come. Girls in particular switch off from dairy products due to their misconception that they are fattening.  This is a big problem for girls as they need a lot more calcium at this age and whereas boys generally do still eat dairy products, it is one of the first groups of products daughters drop. If your daughter isn’t interested in milk drinks, try to encourage other dairy products – they don’t have to be high fat to be calcium-rich.

How you can help

A teenager’s diet is not easy to control – food is often likely to come second to more exciting things like a social life, so snacks on the go become the norm. Also, a desire to define independence for many teens manifests itself in less time spent having meals with the rest of the family.

You don’t want to ‘scare’ your teenager into eating well, but there are positive incentives for maintaining a good balanced diet:

  • It’s common for teens of both sexes but particularly girls to think that skipping meals and cutting out entire food groups will in some way help them become more attractive or healthy. 
  • If your daughter is sporty, she’ll soon realise that eating well can enhance her fitness. Encourage her to understand the ‘science’ of good eating whether she associates ‘fitness’ with her looks or simply with the body-positive.
  • Hormones are at the root of teen troubles like spotty skin and a tendency for hair to get greasy more quickly, but a balanced diet can help at least avoid making problems worse.
  • Remind your daughter that eating at home saves money!

Try to make sure your daughter gets her ‘five a day’ by keeping a well-stocked fruit bowl on hand at all times, and stock a varied, balanced cupboard and fridge of appealing, easy foods that your teenager might grab on her way up to her room or out of the house.

Be very careful about diets or negative body image comments with girls, this is often the time at which eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can start to take a hold.  Positive encouragement and understanding your own daughter are a big help, also be careful about your own attitude to food.

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