Food between 14 and 18 Years

Adolescence is a stage in which important physical, emotional and social changes occur. Although by this stage the organs of digestion, absorption and metabolism of foods have completed their maturation, adolescence is a stage of nutritional risk, given the special characteristics of this stage of life:

Pubertal Growth Spurt, Important Hormonal Changes (Sexual Maturation)

There will be an important acceleration in growth with a significant increase in height and weight; it is estimated that height increases by approximately a quarter and that weight almost doubles. Owing to this, there is a great increase in the need for energy, protein, and some micro-nutrients for the fabrication of muscle, bone and other tissue; much higher than at any other stage of life. The peak demand for nutritional need coincides with the period of maximum growth rate. The quantities of nutrients have to be adjusted individually according to height, state of nutrition and rate of growth.

In addition, there are differences between the sexes during this period of growth which greatly influence nutritional needs during adolescence. In boys, the principle increase is in non-fatty tissue, muscle and bone; whilst in girls, it´s the opposite, the greatest increase being in fatty tissue.

Greater Independence and Capacity for Decision Making

This can lead to:

Disorganised eating, with a tendency to skip meals, especially breakfast, concentrating the ingestion of foods in the afternoons.
An increased consumption of fast food, sweets, ice creams and sugary drinks or other kinds of “foods” with a  high calorific density and a low content of iron, calcium, vitamins A and C and fibre. This presents a great risk to health, unless the diet is adequate in calories and balanced in terms of the minimum quantities and ratios of different nutrients. If, however, most meals are of this type, micro-nutrient deficiencies occur and excessive intake of calories and fats leads to obesity: a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It advisable to limit and offset possible imbalances with meals prepared at home.
The start of alcohol consumption, above all at the weekends, brings empty calories (calories without nutritional input).It also has a significant impact on the digestive system and the nervous system. Even moderate alcohol intake has a significant impact on nutritional balance, as it reduces food intake and alters the availability of certain nutrients (affecting the absorption of folates, vitamin B12, thiamine, and vitamins A and C; as well as increasing the urinary excretion of zinc, magnesium and calcium).
An increase in sedentary activities such as watching television, using the computer and playing video games, with a consequent decrease in physical activity. The opposite is also found, where some teenagers significantly increase their physical activity and thus their requirement for energy and nutrients.

Greater Concern for Physical Appearance and Integration in Social Group

The need for social acceptance means that the teenager is more likely to consume what is being advertised in the media, or pursue fashionable “miracle” diets that are unbalanced and low in calories, which can affect growth or produce nutritional deficiencies. It is important to explain and convince them that there are no miracle foods or diets, and that the right thing for your health and physical appearance is to follow a varied diet, with adequate quality and quantity.

All this during adolescence makes teenagers more vulnerable to suffer food-related problems like obesity, eating disorders or following unbalanced diets, that lead to a state of malnutrition due to excesses or deficiencies.



  1. It´s best to advise a varied diet that includes foods from all the food groups, from the point of view of the total energy requirement as well as the need for micro-nutrients.
  2. Encourage them to eat breakfast every day. Breakfast should consist of dairy products, fruit and cereals.
  3. Promote the consumption of fruit and vegetables every day.
  4. Include a source of protein everyday: meat, fish, eggs, legumes and cereals.
  5. Cook with olive oil, avoiding other fats such as butter, margarine, lard, etc. For salad dressings, it´s better to use a variety of “virgin olive oil”.
  6. Avoid fried foods, and use cooking methods that avoid fats, such as: boiling, roasting, baking, steaming and grilling.
  7. Avoid offal meats (liver, heart, kidney, brains, etc), sausage, pre-cooked foods and commercial parties.
  8. Avoid bagged snacks, snacking between meals and sugary drinks (soft drinks and commercial juices).
  9. Reduce the use of salt.
  10. Ensure that they have access to nutritious food and drinks high in fibre, at mealtimes as well as at other times.
  11. Apply the recommendations when eating out as well as when eating at home.
  12. Avoid excessive food restrictions.
  13. Avoid offering specific foods as a reward.
  14. Don´t have eat in front of the television, as it´s easy to lose track of the true quantity eaten.
  15. Advice on physical activity should be inseparable from nutritional advice, which is why it´s necessary to make time for regular physical exercise and limit time for TV, the computer, video games and other sedentary entertainment to a maximum of 2 hours a day.
  16. These changes should be adopted by the whole family in the long term.

Nutritional Recommendations Physical activity Most Common Problems

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