Children are always unpredictable when it comes to food and proper nourishment is always a matter of concern for all mothers. Early adolescence is a period of life typically occurring between 8-15 years of age where a child undergoes a second growth spurt where rapid physical, cognitive and social transition is seen (1). Parents can assure that their child gets a healthy optimized growth by paying attention to the following points-
1. Eat Well Balanced Nutritious Food
The growth spurt that occurs in adolescence, second only to that in the first year of life, creates increased demands for energy and nutrients (2). Healthy eating is an important lesson you can teach your children at a young age. Adequate energy according to their physical activity, body type and metabolism will help them to deal better with physiological changes.
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy at this stage. Sufficient carbohydrates help body spare proteins for growth and development. Make your child learn the importance of whole grains over refined carbs. Fiber is an essential source of a daily routine. All varieties of fruits and vegetables should be taken for the good amount of antioxidants in them (3).
Protein needs of adolescents are determined by the amount of protein required for maintenance of existing lean body mass and the development of additional lean body mass during the adolescent growth spurt. Children can fulfil their protein needs by consuming pulses, beans, eggs, meat, fish, chicken, nuts, soy and soy products like tofu, soymilk, milk and milk products like curd, cheese, paneer etc. (4).
During this phase dietary fat continues to play an important role for energy purpose and proper hormone functioning (5). The type of fat rather than its quantity is more important in determining the health consequences of dietary fat. Make your child learn to choose healthier fat options like nuts, lean meats, skim dairy products over trans fats in bakery products and packaged food (6).
Adolescents grow at the greatest rate of any age group after infancy and accumulate 37% of their total bone mass during this growth spurt (7). This group also needs more calcium to build peak bone mass. If the skeleton is strengthened with enough calcium during these years, diseases like osteoporosis are less likely to occur in the later years (8). Good sources of calcium are milk and milk products, sesame seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables.
With the onset of adolescence, the need for iron increases. As adolescents gain muscle mass, more iron is needed to help their new muscle cells obtain oxygen for energy. (9) Good sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, fruits, pulses especially kidney beans, black Bengal gram, green moong, soybean, jowar, ragi, nuts, jaggery etc. Include vitamin C in the diet as this helps the body absorb more iron. Make sure your child has plenty of foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, lemons, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes, and gooseberries daily.
2. Sit Down to Family Dinners at Night
Sitting down for family meals at night is a great way to bond as a family and make sure you eat healthy dinners. Research has shown that children who eat dinners with their families eat more nutritious foods and are less likely to get in trouble later in life (10). Parents should limit children’s video, television watching, and computer use to less than 2 hours daily and replace the sedentary activities with activities that require more movement. (11)
3. Need for Regular Physical Activities
Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days to maintain good health and fitness. Children should be active every day to promote their healthy growth and development. Kids who establish healthy lifestyle patterns at a young age will carry them and their benefits forward for the rest of their lives. Physical activity can help kids cope with stress. It will help them to build better muscle endurance &strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance
4. Skipping Meals and Opting for Fast Foods
Adolescents tend to eat differently due to Preoccupancy with after-school activities and engagement. Adolescents do not often sit down for three meals a day which leads to meal skipping, snacking throughout the day and more eating away from home. Many teens skip breakfast but this meal is particularly important for getting enough energy to make it through the day and it may even lead to better academic performance. Teens skipping meals at home are more likely to opt for foods from the canteen or market which are unhealthy, high in calories trans fats and sugar and are of poor nutritional value (12).
Thus proper nutrition at this age is important for supporting the physical growth of the body and for preventing future health problems. All parents should, therefore, pay particular attention to the nutritional needs and physical activity of their children.
- Urdan Tim. Steive Klein; Early adolescence: A Review of Literature; 1998; U.S. Department of Education- office of educational research and improvement
- Story M. Nutritional requirements during adolescence. In: McAnarney ER, Kreipe RE, Orr DE, Comerci GD, eds. Textbook of adolescent medicine. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 1992: 75-84.
- K.E. Elizabeth. Nutrition and Child Development. 4th Edition; Paras Medical Publication New Dehli 2010.
- B. Shrilaxmi. Dietetics; New Age International Publication, New Dehli 2014.
- Ashraf Soliman, Vincenzo De Sanctis, and Rania Elalaily. Nutrition and pubertal development; Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Nov; 18(Suppl 1): S39–S47.
- Peterson S, Sigman-Grant M. Impact of adopting lower-fat food choices on nutrient intake of American children. Pediatrics 1997:100.
- Key JD, Key LL JR. Calcium Needs of Adolescents; Europe PMC Current Opinion in Pediatrics [01 Aug 1994, 6(4):379-382]
- Whiting SJ, Vatanparast H, Baxter-Jones A, Faulkner RA, Mirwald R, Bailey DA. Factors that affect bone mineral accrual in the adolescent growth spurt. J Nutr. 2004 Mar;134(3):696S-700S.
- Ashraf Soliman, Vincenzo De Sanctis, and Rania Elalaily; Nutrition and pubertal development: Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Nov; 18(Suppl 1): S39–S47.
- Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Peter J Hannan, Mary Story, Jillian Croll, Cheryl Perry, Family meal patterns: Associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. March 2003Volume 103, Issue 3, Pages 317–322
- M H Proctor, L L Moore, D Gao, LA Cupples, M L Bradlee, M Y Hood & R C EllisonTelevision viewing and change in body fat from preschool to early adolescence: The Framingham Children’s Study. International Journal of Obesity volume27, pages827–833(2003)
- Harnack L, Stang J, Story M. Soft drink consumption among US children and adolescents: nutritional consequences. J Am Diet Assoc 1999;99 (4):436-441.