Nutrition plays a major role in providing a normal growth during the puberty. Except for the difference in the amount of calories to be consumed by the boys and girls attaining puberty, the nutritional requirements are almost the same.
The caloric difference can be mainly attributed to the difference in height and weight of the adolescents, which can vary greatly from one another. It also highly depends on how active the adolescents are. An adolescent boy usually needs about 2400 to 3200 caloric intakes, while an adolescent girl usually needs about 1800 to 2400 caloric intakes.
Consuming an adequate and balanced healthy diet during all phases of growth (infancy, childhood and puberty) appears necessary both for proper growth and normal pubertal development. Girls begin puberty at an earlier age compared to past decades. Excessive eating of many processed, high-fat foods, may be the cause of this phenomenon.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the adolescents consume more saturated fatty acids, sugar and salt more than the recommended level, while the intake of dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals are less than the recommended level. At the same time, the physical activity of these adolescents has reduced considerably. Due to this, a specific percentage of adolescent girls and boys suffer from overweight and obesity. Overweight or obese children are more likely to enter puberty early. Some evidence suggests that obesity can accelerate the onset of puberty in girls and may delay the onset of puberty in boys.
- Iron, for growth & muscle development; especially for girls, because they need to compensate the blood loss during the menstruation. Green leafy vegetables, soy beans, nuts, bananas, etc. are good sources of iron.
- Calcium, for bone mass development. Oranges, dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. figs, almonds and soy milk are good sources of calcium.
- Proteins, for overall body development; especially boy’s needs higher intake of proteins than girls. Beans, legumes, nuts, meat, seafood, eggs, coconut and bananas are good sources of protein.
The calorie requirements of teenage boys and girls vary because of differences in weight and amount of lean muscle mass. A teenage boy between the ages of 13 and 15 needs between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day, depending on his activity level. A male from 16 to 19 years old requires between 2,400 to 3,200 calories each day. Female teenagers from 13 to 15 years old need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories each day, and those between 16 and 19 years old require 1,800 to 2,400 calories. Both boys and girls who are relatively inactive need fewer calories than teens who participate in sports or have a very active lifestyle.
The 2011 Dietary Guidelines for Indian indicates that the protein requirements for teenage boys and girls differ slightly. Boys between 14 and 18 years old need about 52 grams of protein a day, while girls in the same age range require 46 grams. Boys and girls who are 13 years old both need about 34 grams of protein. Good sources of protein includes Animal foods like milk, meat, fish and eggs and plant foods such as pulses and legumes.
Teen boys and girls require the same amount of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and selenium. Minerals where the requirements vary between the two genders include iron, magnesium and zinc. Female teens need 15 milligrams of iron daily, and male teens need 11 milligrams. Females need only 360 milligrams of magnesium a day to a male teen’s 410 milligrams. The daily zinc requirement for girls stands at 9 milligrams, and boys need 11 milligrams. A teen’s body uses magnesium for both nerve and muscle function and zinc for a strong immune system.
Teen girls need just 700 micro grams of vitamin A, and boys require 900 micro grams a day. Food rich in vitamin A include carrots, pumpkin, eggs, butter and cantaloupe. Female teens also need less vitamin C than do boys: 65 milligrams a day for girls compared with about 75 milligrams a day for boys. Other vitamin requirements that vary between adolescent girls and boys include Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B-6 and Choline. Girls need slightly less of these vitamins because of their generally smaller stature and body weight.
Other form of nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals are also required appropriately. Girls and boys go through rapid changes during adolescence. Social situations, new freedoms and an increasing sense of independence can be challenging for teenagers, and a nutritionally balanced diet remains important during this exciting time. Although boys and girls need the nutrients as part of their diet, the amounts they require vary depending on their activity level and gender. Hence, the parents must ensure that their adolescent children consume a balanced diet and perform a moderately intense activity to stay fit.