Adolescent eating habits

Monday, May 16, 2005
Teenage girl
During adolescence there are many changes taking place as a child's body turns into that of an adult and their nutritional needs increase.

Throughout adolescence a teenager's iron needs increase significantly. When girls begin to menstruate their dietary iron intake must increase to compensate for the loss of iron in their menstrual blood. At this time boys also need more iron because of their rapid growth and increase in blood volume. Around the age of 19, when growth slows, a female's iron needs are almost double that of males.

Calcium is also important throughout the teenage years, necessary for building strong bones and ensuring good health and wellbeing later on in life. It is essential that teenagers include at least three serves of dairy food a day to maintain an adequate calcium intake.

Adolescence is a period when peer pressure can affect teenage eating behaviour and they may start skipping meals or possibly under-eating or over-eating. Currently around 20 percent of children and adolescents in Australia are obese and this is due mainly to a lack of physical activity and high fat diets. Behaviours such as extreme dieting, binge eating and bringing up food on purpose also affect more teenagers than adults and more girls than boys (nine girls to every one boy).

Many adolescents see themselves as being too fat, while some, particularly males, see themselves as too thin. About 34 percent of females and 13 percent of males report dieting to lose weight. Anxiety, worry, loneliness and difficulty in managing family relationships are all factors that can lead to a refusal to eat or to excessive eating. Stress and boredom often result in the compulsive eating of certain foods, called "bingeing".

Maintaining good nutrition throughout a child's teenage years is fundamental for their health and wellbeing. To maintain a healthy balance teenagers should:

  • Eat regular meals.
  • Do some physical activity daily.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods.
  • Eat carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice and potatoes.

For more information please visit Nestlé Nutrition

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