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In this section, we will discuss the nutritional requirements for young people ages fourteen to eighteen. One way that teenagers assert their independence is by choosing what to eat. They have their own money to purchase food and tend to eat more meals away from home. Older adolescents also can be curious and open to new ideas, which includes trying new kinds of food and experimenting with their diet. For example, teens will sometimes skip a main meal and snack instead. That is not necessarily problematic. Their choice of food is more important than the time or place.
However, too many poor choices can make young people nutritionally vulnerable. Teens should be discouraged from eating fast food, which has a high fat and sugar content, or frequenting convenience stores and using vending machines, which typically offer poor nutritional selections. Other challenges that teens may face include obesity and eating disorders. At this life stage, young people still need guidance from parents and other caregivers about nutrition-related matters. It can be helpful to explain to young people how healthy eating habits can support activities they enjoy, such as skateboarding or dancing, or connect to their desires or interests, such as a lean figure, athletic performance, or improved cognition.
As during puberty, growth and development during adolescence differs in males than in females. In teenage girls, fat assumes a larger percentage of body weight, while teenage boys experience greater muscle and bone increases. For both, primary and secondary sex characteristics have fully developed and the rate of growth slows with the end of puberty. Also, the motor functions of an older adolescent are comparable to those of an adult.Elaine U. Polan, RNC, MS and Daphne R. Taylor, RN, MS, Journey Across the Life Span: Human Development and Health Promotion (Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Company, 2003), 171–173. Again, adequate nutrition and healthy choices support this stage of growth and development.
Adolescents have increased appetites due to increased nutritional requirements. Nutrient needs are greater in adolescence than at any other time in the life cycle, except during pregnancy. The energy requirements for ages fourteen to eighteen are 1,800 to 2,400 calories for girls and 2,000 to 3,200 calories for boys, depending on activity level. The extra energy required for physical development during the teenaged years should be obtained from foods that provide nutrients instead of “empty calories.” Also, teens who participate in sports must make sure to meet their increased energy needs.
Older adolescents are more responsible for their dietary choices than younger children, but parents and caregivers must make sure that teens continue to meet their nutrient needs. For carbohydrates, the AMDR is 45 to 65 percent of daily calories (203–293 grams for 1,800 daily calories). Adolescents require more servings of grain than younger children, and should eat whole grains, such as wheat, oats, barley, and brown rice. The Institute of Medicine recommends higher intakes of protein for growth in the adolescent population. The AMDR for protein is 10 to 30 percent of daily calories (45–135 grams for 1,800 daily calories), and lean proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds are excellent ways to meet those nutritional needs.
The AMDR for fat is 25 to 35 percent of daily calories (50–70 grams for 1,800 daily calories), and the AMDR for fiber is 25–34 grams per day, depending on daily calories and activity level. It is essential for young athletes and other physically active teens to intake enough fluids, because they are at a higher risk for becoming dehydrated.
Micronutrient recommendations for adolescents are mostly the same as for adults, though children this age need more of certain minerals to promote bone growth (e.g., calcium and phosphorus, along with iron and zinc for girls). Again, vitamins and minerals should be obtained from food first, with supplementation for certain micronutrients only (such as iron).
The most important micronutrients for adolescents are calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron. Adequate calcium and vitamin D are essential for building bone mass. The recommendation for calcium is 1,300 milligrams for both boys and girls. Low-fat milk and cheeses are excellent sources of calcium and help young people avoid saturated fat and cholesterol. It can also be helpful for adolescents to consume products fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice. Iron supports the growth of muscle and lean body mass. Adolescent girls also need to ensure sufficient iron intake as they start to menstruate. Girls ages twelve to eighteen require 15 milligrams of iron per day. Increased amounts of vitamin C from orange juice and other sources can aid in iron absorption. Also, adequate fruit and vegetable intake allows for meeting vitamin A needs. Table 13.3 "Micronutrient Levels during Older Adolescence" shows the micronutrient recommendations for older adolescents, which differ slightly for males and females, unlike the recommendations for puberty.
Table 13.3 Micronutrient Levels during Older Adolescence
|Nutrient||Males, Ages 14–18||Females, Ages 14–18|
|Vitamin A (mcg)||900.0||700.0|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||1.3||1.2|
|Vitamin B12 (mcg)||2.4||2.4|
|Vitamin C (mg)||75.0||65.0|
|Vitamin D (mcg)||5.0||5.0|
|Vitamin E (mg)||15.0||15.0|
|Vitamin K (mcg)||75.0||75.0|
|Niacin (B3) (mg)||16.0||14.0|
|Riboflavin (B2) (mg)||1.3||1.0|
|Thiamine (B1) (mg)||1.2||1.0|
Source: Institute of Medicine. http://www.iom.edu.
Many teens struggle with an eating disorderA behavioral condition that involves extreme attitudes and behaviors toward food and nutrition. These disorders are characterized by overeating or undereating, and include anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa., which can have a detrimental effect on diet and health. A study published by North Dakota State University estimates that these conditions impact twenty-four million people in the United States and seventy million worldwide.North Dakota State University. “Eating Disorder Statistics.” Accessed March 5, 2012. http://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/counseling/Eating_Disorder_Statistics.pdf. These disorders are more prevalent among adolescent girls, but have been increasing among adolescent boys in recent years. Because eating disorders oftenlead to malnourishment, adolescents with an eating disorder are deprived of the crucial nutrients their still-growing bodies need.
Eating disorders involve extreme behavior related to food and exercise. Sometimes referred to as “starving or stuffing,” they encompass a group of conditions marked by undereating or overeating. Some of these conditions include:
Eating disorders stem from stress, low self-esteem, and other psychological and emotional issues. It is important for parents to watch for signs and symptoms of these disorders, including sudden weight loss, lethargy, vomiting after meals, and the use of appetite suppressants. Eating disorders can lead to serious complications or even be fatal if left untreated. Treatment includes cognitive, behavioral, and nutritional therapy.
Eating Disorders: Anorexia(click to see video)
This video provides more information about the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
Research the biological, social, and psychological aspects of eating disorders at this website. Then, brainstorm a list of risk factors and warning signs for parents, teachers, and physicians.