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Nutritional Programs for Adolescence

© Elson M. Haas MD

Teenagers need to realize the importance of good nutrition, which can help a great deal in promoting nice-looking skin and general good looks. Dental caries are more common in adolescence, probably due to hormonal changes, a poor diet high in refined sugars, and mineral deficiencies. A more wholesome diet along with regular brushing and flossing will also promote healthy teeth.

We can help adolescent children best by being understanding and supportive. Our advice should be mild, with suggestions for modifications such as avoiding certain foods and trying others. Parents can be good influences by being good examples, eating well themselves, and not buying junk and refined snack foods for the home. Keeping nourishing snack foods such as fruits, nuts, and yogurt on hand and preparing wholesome meals will help youngsters make the best food choices.

A big concern in recent years is the wide availability of fast foods. These tend to contain high levels of salt, fat, and additives and low amounts of fiber and other vital nutrients. Protein is usually adequate; sugar may be excessive. If fast foods are not eaten too frequently (more than once weekly), they are not a big cause for concern. (And now, the fast food restaurants are offering healthier salads and nonfried foods.) However, a regular diet of soda pops, breads, cheese, sweets, and snack foods (which can be eaten at fast food places or at home and school) can be more of a problem. The protein content of such a diet may be low, and the B vitamins and vitamins C, A, and E are often deficient. Minerals may be the biggest problem. Calcium and iron are needed in high amounts in these growth years, and they are frequently not obtained in adequate amounts from diet alone. If soft drinks are substituted for milk, both calcium and vitamin D may be low. Zinc and manganese are also concerns, as are the trace minerals chromium and selenium. Those extra high nutrient foods such as brewer?s yeast, molasses, wheat germ, and nuts can be added to fruit smoothies to increase the dietary nutrients. Teenagers may accept these kinds of suggestions.

The recommended overall diet plan is a balanced one containing vegetables, including some greens; nuts; whole grains; fruit; and higher-protein foods (dairy and meats) to provide the needed B vitamins, C, calcium, zinc, and iron. Vegetarian teenagers need to be even more conscious nutritionally, making sure they obtain many high-nutrient and wholesome foods. (See Chapter 16, Vegetarianism program.) To assure that growing teenagers obtain all the nutrients they need to support their heavy growth demands, a general multiple vitamin and mineral supplement is highly recommended. Girls especially need extra iron. Other needs may also be increased under certain circumstances; these are discussed in later programs.

The following nutrient levels suggest the RDAs (and slightly above) for two age groups of the adolescent years: 12?15 and 16?18. After that, the adult programs are used. There are, of course, nutritional supplements for young people that contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals that can also be used as additional support. Many teenagers will do well on these products as they ensure good levels of most nutrients.


Daily Nutrient Program for Adolescence

12?15 Years 16?18 Years
Calories boys, 2,600?3,000 boys, 2,800?3,000
girls, 2,000?2,300 girls, 2,000?2,200
Protein boys, 45 g. boys, 56 g.
girls, 46 g.girls, 46 g.
Vitamin A5,000 IUs5,000 IUs
Vitamin D400 IUs400 IUs
Vitamin E30 IUs30 IUs
Vitamin K150 mcg.150 mcg.
Thiamine (B1)1.5 mg.1.5 mg.
Riboflavin (B2)2 mg.2 mg.
Niacin (B3)18 mg.18 mg.
Pantothenic acid (B5)10 mg.10 mg.
Pyridoxine (B6)2.5 mg.2.5 mg.
Cobalamin (B12)5 mcg.5 mcg.
Folic acid400 mcg.400 mcg.
Biotin200 mcg.200 mcg.
Vitamin C300 mg.300 mg.
Calcium1,200 mg.1,200 mg.
Chloride3 g.3 g.
Chromium200 mcg.200 mcg.
Copper2?3 mg.2?3 mg.
Fluoride2.5 mg.2.5 mg.
Iodine150 mcg.150 mcg.
Iron18 mg.18 mg.
Magnesium350 mg.400 mg.
Manganese5 mg.5 mg.
Molybdenum500 mcg.500 mcg.
Phosphorus1,200 mg.1,200 mg.
Potassium4 g.4 g.
Selenium200 mcg.200 mcg.
Sodium2.5 g.3.0 g.
Zinc15 mg.15 mg.

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About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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