Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

13.3: Older Adolescence and Nutrition

  • Page ID
    21185
  • Learning Objectives

    • Summarize nutritional requirements and dietary recommendations for teens.
    • Discuss the most important nutrition-related concerns during older adolescence.

    In this section, we will discuss the nutritional requirements for young people ages 14-18. Growth and development during adolescence differs between males and females. In teenage girls, fat assumes a larger percentage of body weight, while teenage boys experience greater muscle and bone increases. Skeletal growth ceases once closure of the epiphyseal plate occurs. The motor functions of an older adolescent are comparable to those of an adult. Adequate nutrition and healthy choices support this stage of growth and development.

    Energy

    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 extra energy required for physical development during the teenage years should be obtained from foods that provide nutrients instead of “empty calories”.

    Macronutrients

    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. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) for 14-18 year olds are listed in Table \(\PageIndex{1}\).1 For carbohydrates, the AMDR is 45-65% of daily calories. Adolescents require more servings of grains than younger children, and should eat whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, corn tortillas, oats, and brown rice. Whole grain food choices will also help meet the fiber recommendations for this age group which is 26 grams of fiber per day for females and 38 grams per day for males. The Institute of Medicine recommends higher intakes of protein for growth in the adolescent population. The AMDR for protein is 10-30% of daily calories; lean proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds are excellent ways to meet those nutritional needs. The AMDR for fat is 25-35% of daily calories.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) for Older Adolescence
    Macronutrient AMDR
    Carbohydrate 45-65% of total calories
    Protein 10-30% of total calories
    Fat 25-35% of total calories

    Micronutrients

    Micronutrient recommendations for older 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 dairy, green leafy vegetables, and almonds are good sources of calcium. It can also be helpful for adolescents to consume products fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals and calcium-fortified 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 14-18 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 \(\PageIndex{2}\)1 shows the micronutrient recommendations for older adolescents, which differ slightly for males and females, unlike the recommendations for early adolescence.

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Micronutrient Levels during Older Adolescence
    Nutrient Males, Ages 14–18 Females, Ages 14–18
    Vitamin A (mcg) 900 700
    Vitamin B6 (mg) 1.3 1.2
    Vitamin B12 (mcg) 2.4 2.4
    Vitamin C (mg) 75 65
    Vitamin D (mcg) 15 15
    Vitamin E (mg) 15 15
    Vitamin K (mcg) 75 75
    Calcium (mg) 1,300 1,300
    Folate (mcg) 400 400
    Iron (mg) 11 15
    Magnesium (mg) 410 360
    Niacin (B3) (mg) 16 14
    Phosphorus (mg) 1,250 1,250
    Riboflavin (B2) (mg) 1.3 1.0
    Selenium (mcg) 55 55
    Thiamin (B1) (mg) 1.2 1.0
    Zinc (mg) 11 9

    Key Takeaways

    • Older adolescents experience numerous physical changes and must increase their energy intake to support these changes and meet nutrient needs.
    • Nutrient needs are greater during adolescence than at any other time in the life cycle, except during pregnancy.
    • The most important micronutrients for adolescents are calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron.

    References

    1. Summary Report of the Dietary Reference Intakes. nationalacademies.org. www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/summary-report-of-the-dietary-reference-intakes. Accessed July 14, 2020.
    • Was this article helpful?