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A Healthy Diet for Preteens

By Meg Brannagan

The childhood years of 8 to 12, when a child is a preteen, are an important time of physical changes and development. Preteens are transitioning out of childhood and headed toward puberty. Body changes, emotional expressions and increases in hormones are all preparing a preteen for her adolescent years. A healthy diet is important to support the physical and emotional changes that a preteen is experiencing.

Bone Health

A diet with plenty of calcium will improve bone mineralization and reduce the effects of bone loss later in life. According to the NIH Osteoporosis National Resource Center, preteens need 1,300mg of calcium in their daily diet. Children who do not like milk have several other options for including calcium. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, orange juice, fortified cereals and ice cream.


Fat is an important component in a diet for preteens, as it contributes to body growth and provides energy. To avoid overeating fat and contributing to obesity, try to eat foods with unsaturated fats, including foods made with corn or olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish. Limit daily amounts of trans fats such as cookies, cakes, muffins, fried foods, and those made with margarine and vegetable shortening.


A healthy diet for preteens includes foods that contain important vitamins. Vitamins build the immune system; support the growth of cells; help the nerves to work correctly; maintain skin and hair health and support the work of the heart, muscles and digestive system. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat tissues and are vitamins A, E, D, and K. Water soluble vitamins can be excreted from the body and are the B vitamins as well as vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and should be included in a daily diet.


Protein is important for the growth and development of muscles. Preteens also need protein in their diets especially when they are active in sports and activities. Protein provides energy and repairs damaged body tissues. Food sources of protein include lean meat and fish, eggs, beans and peanut butter.


The Palo Alto Medical Foundation urges preteens to participate in an active lifestyle of regular physical fitness to promote health, and encourages drinking plenty of water to maintain hydration. Preteens should always eat a few hours before activities instead of eating a meal right before exercising. This will reduce the sensation of fullness during activities and can increase energy.

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