A Balanced Diet for Adolescents

Lifelong health and nutrition begin at an early age. Developing healthy eating habits as an adolescent can help you grow and develop into a strong, healthy adult. Poor nutrition can lead to eating disorders, obesity, sexual maturation delays and delay in reaching your full height potential, according to the University of Chicago. With so many unhealthy meal choices available, it is important to abstain from foods high in calories and fat and maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Caloric Intake

Watching calories is an important part of any well-balanced diet. Your body uses calories for fuel to perform daily tasks and give you energy to participate in activities you enjoy. Consuming too few calories can leave you feeling weak. On the other hand, consuming too many calories can cause you to gain weight. The University of Chicago recommends that female adolescents consume 2,200 calories daily. Adolescent males should consume 2,500 to 3,000 calories daily.


Protein is important for boosting your immune system and allowing your muscles to function properly. The University of Chicago recommends that protein comprise 30 percent of a well-balanced diet for adolescents. A majority of teenagers are able to meet, if not exceed, protein levels through the foods they eat. Sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean meat, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains.


Calcium is important for the growth and development of strong, healthy bones during your teenage years. If your body does not receive enough calcium, it will begin to take calcium from your bones to function properly. This can lead to weak bones that are susceptible to fracture. The University of Chicago indicates a majority of bone mass deposition occurs as an adolescent, so you should consume 1,500 milligrams daily of calcium. Sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.


Iron is important for growth and reaching your full height potential as an adolescent. Iron can be found in meat, cereals, nuts, fish, poultry, eggs and fortified products such as milk. Iron is especially important for females who have begun their menstrual cycle because iron is lost during your monthly period.


Maintaining a well-balanced diet does not mean you have to avoid all of the foods you enjoy. The University of Chicago indicates fats should make up 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. According to the Cleveland Clinic, saturated fatty acids and trans fats are the bad fats. Saturated fat should not exceed 7 percent of your caloric intake daily, while trans fats should be less than 1 percent. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products and a few plant based products -- including bacon fat, butter and the skin of poultry. Trans fats have a tendency to lower your good cholesterol and raise your bad cholesterol; they're found in store-bought cookies, fried foods and cakes. Polyunsaturated and monosaturated fatty acids are known as the good fats. They help to keep your body free from newly formed cholesterol, according to Cleveland Clinic. Good fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and vegetable oils.


Fiber is also important in the growth and development of adolescents. The University of Chicago indicates teens should consume 20 to 25 grams of fiber daily. Sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables -- teens should consume five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fiber can also be found in grains, cereal and beans.


A majority of teens who consume a well-balanced diet receive an adequate amount of vitamins. The University of Chicago indicates adolescents are most often deficient in vitamins A, B-6, D, C and E. If you are an adolescent not eating a well-balance diet, talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking vitamin supplements.