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The Perfect Diet for a Teenager

By Christa Miller ; Updated June 13, 2017

Many teenagers feel pressured to diet and become thinner even if they don’t need to lose weight, according to GirlsHealth.gov. If you think you might have a weight problem, ask your doctor whether she thinks you should change your diet. She can help assess whether you are on the right track to living a long and healthy life or recommend a well-balanced diet that will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Calories

Most teenage girls need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day and most teenage guys need between 1,800 and 3,200 calories per day, according to MayoClinic.com. Factors such as age, height and activity level influence whether you should consume more or less calories. If you’re an athlete, for example, you will need to take in a higher amount of calories or else you risk performing poorly at your sport, according to GirlsHealth.gov. However, if you’re overweight, sedentary and you’ve been taking in about 2,600 calories a day, your doctor may recommend losing a steady ½ to 2 lbs. per week by ditching 250 to 1,000 daily calories.

Fruits, Vegetables and Whole Grains

Most teens should take in enough carbohydrates to make up about 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories, according to MayoClinic.com. The fruits, vegetables and grains you eat each day fill up your carbohydrate quota. You should consume between 5 and 8 oz. of grains per day, but at least half of them should be whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice rather than foods like white bread; whole grains contain more nutrients such as fiber. Your daily fruit intake should be 1 1/2 to 2 cups per day, and your daily vegetable intake should be 2 to 3 cups per day, according to MyPyramid.gov. Include a fruit and vegetable with every meal.

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Lean Protein and Healthy Fat

Your protein intake should be 10 to 30 percent of your daily calories and fat should make up 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories, according to MayoClinic.com. However, to maintain optimal heart health, stick to mostly low-fat sources of protein—foods such as beans, chicken, fish and low-fat or skim milk rather than a fatty beef slab and whole milk. The fats you find in animal products and other fats that are solid at room temperature are called saturated fats; they should make up less than 7 percent of your daily fat. Focus instead on eating healthy fats such as those in nuts, avocados, fish and olive oil, recommends MyPyramid.gov.

Tips

Eat breakfast every morning. Teens that eat breakfast are likely to eat fewer calories throughout the day and less likely to have a weight problem, according to the Nemours Foundation. Follow it up with healthy snacks between meals, such as whole grain pretzels between breakfast and lunch or a mid-day apple, and you will be less likely to overeat at meals.

Treats

Enjoy treats from time to time, but take it easy. If you eat cake at your friend’s birthday party, for example, follow it up with some carrot sticks rather than greasy chips, recommends the Nemours Foundation. Also, rather than drinking two or three sodas a day, replace at least one of them with a glass of water and you’ll save yourself at least 150 calories. Whenever possible, ditch boxed store-bought baked goods such as crackers and cookies, as they often contain a heart-risky type of fat known as trans fat. Fried foods such as donuts also often contain trans fats.

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