How Much Protein Does My Teenage Boy Need?
A healthy teenage boy should get between 10 and 35 percent of his daily calories from protein, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without adequate protein, a teen cannot grow and develop properly and his body won't be able to build and repair cellular tissue. A teenage boy needs to consume lean protein from a variety of sources each day, though he should be careful not to eat more than recommended: A diet too high in protein may contribute to excess calories and cause weight gain.
Daily Protein Recommendations
A boy between 14 and 18 years old needs approximately 6 1/2 servings of protein-rich foods daily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a serving of protein as one egg, one-quarter cup of cooked beans or soy products such as tofu, one tablespoon of nut butter, one-half ounce of nuts or seeds or one ounce of cooked poultry, meat, fish or shellfish. The protein from dairy products, such as milk, yogurt or cheese, also contributes to your teenage boy's protein intake, though the USDA counts dairy as a separate food group because of the calcium content.
Sample Daily Menu
Eating Plan for a 15-Year-Old Girl
Teenage boys should aim to spread their protein consumption throughout the day. A typical breakfast could be a poached egg with whole-wheat toast, low-fat yogurt topped with one-half ounce of toasted walnuts and fresh fruit. Teens that don't have a history of high blood cholesterol can have four whole eggs weekly.
Lunch might consist of 2 ounces of thinly sliced cooked turkey or chicken breast with lettuce, onions and tomatoes on a whole-grain roll and raw vegetable sticks. Teen boys should avoid processed deli meats, including hot dogs and sausages, whenever possible since they're high in sodium.
For dinner, a teenage boy could have 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of grilled fish like salmon, brown rice and steamed green vegetables. The American Heart Association recommends consuming two servings of fish per week to lower the risk of heart disease.
- Teenage boys should aim to spread their protein consumption throughout the day.
- For dinner, a teenage boy could have 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of grilled fish like salmon, brown rice and steamed green vegetables.
Vegetarians and Vegans
A teenage boy does not need to eat animal-based foods to get enough protein. The National Institutes of Health assures that you can get all of the amino acids your body needs to synthesize proteins by eating plenty of plant-based foods throughout the day.
Strict vegetarian or vegan teens should consume a variety of whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. The amino acids in these foods complement one another, giving your teen complete protein. In addition, he can include soy milk, soy products, including tofu or tempeh, and the grain-like seed quinoa regularly in his diet: These foods are the only plant-based sources of complete protein.
- A teenage boy does not need to eat animal-based foods to get enough protein.
- The National Institutes of Health assures that you can get all of the amino acids your body needs to synthesize proteins by eating plenty of plant-based foods throughout the day.
Considerations for Athletes
Healthy Diet for a Teenage Boy
The Colorado State University Extension says that carbohydrates and fats are more important sources of energy for an athlete than protein. Most athletes, including teenage boys involved in sports, do not need to eat more protein than non-athletes. If your son is an endurance athlete such as a marathon runner or long-distance bicyclist, he may need between 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. If he is involved in strenuous strength training, he may need up to 1.6 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of his body weight. Ask your son's doctor or a sports nutritionist to help you determine how much protein he should be eating if he is a serious athlete.
- The Colorado State University Extension says that carbohydrates and fats are more important sources of energy for an athlete than protein.
- If your son is an endurance athlete such as a marathon runner or long-distance bicyclist, he may need between 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
Eating Plan for a 15-Year-Old Girl
Healthy Diet for a Teenage Boy
How Much Protein Per Day for a Teenage Girl?
What Is a Balanced Diet for a Growing Teenage Boy or Teenage Girl?
Daily Nutritional Requirements for Teens
How Many Calories a Day Does a 7-Month-Old Child Need?
Teenage Diet for Endurance Runners
How Does Junk Food Affect Developing Teens?
How Does Milk Affect Teens?
How Many Carbohydrates Do Teens Need Every Day?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- MedlinePlus: Protein in Diet
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Food from the Protein Foods Group is Needed Daily?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts as an Ounce Equivalent in the Protein Foods Group?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Choose a Food Group
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Tips to Help You Make Wise Choices from the Protein Foods Group
- American Heart Association: Fish 101
- Colorado State University Extension: Nutrition for the Athlete
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- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Advice About Eating Fish. Updated July 2019.
- de Gavelle E, Huneau J-F, Bianchi CM, Verger EO, Mariotti F. Protein adequacy Is primarily a matter of protein quantity, not quality: Modeling an increase in plant:animal protein ratio in French adults. Nutrients. 2017;9(12). doi:10.3390/nu9121333
- FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. What are proteins and what do they do?.
- US Department of Agriculture. All about the protein foods group.
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.