Nutrition plays an important role in living a healthy lifestyle. Having good nutrition reduces your risk of chronic diseases (i.e. heart disease and cancer), helps you reach or maintain a healthy weight, and promotes overall health. Being a teen, eating well encourages healthy brain development and overall physical growth. Here is some helpful information to help you make healthy eating choices.

What Are Calories?

Calories are a unit of energy. They measure how much energy a certain food will give you. During early teenage years, your body requires more calories than any other time of life. The amount of calorie intake not only depends on age, but also gender, height and activity level.

Average Calories Required for Teen Boys:
2,800 calories per day

Average Calories Required for Teen Girls: 
2,200 calories per day

What Are Essential Nutrients?
Essential nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These nutrients serve as the body’s energy sources. Each gram of protein and carbohydrate supplies 4 calories while each gram of fat supplies 9 calories. Foods high in fat are therefore high in calories. Let’s take a closer look at these nutrients.


  • Builds muscles, bones, hair, nails as well as helps your tissues, organs and immune system work correctly
  • After water, protein is the next most plentiful substance in your body
  • Examples of protein rich foods include meat, eggs and cheese
  • Adolescents in the US get twice as much protein as needed
  • Nutritionists recommend that protein make up about 12-20 percent of your daily calorie intake

Carbohydrates (Carbs):

  • Unlike protein and fat, carbs are easily digested and broken down into glucose which the body uses for energy
  • There are two types of carbs—Simple and Complex
  • Simple carbs include processed foods such as candy, cakes and cookies, and lead to weight gain if eaten too often
  • Complex carbs include beans, whole grains and veggies, and tend to have higher amounts of fiber
  • Nutritionists recommend complex carbs make up 50-60 percent of your daily calorie intake


  • Gives your body energy, supports cell growth, protects organs, absorbs nutrients and produces important hormones
  • Fatty foods contain cholesterol, waxy substance that clogs arteries
  • There are three types of fats—Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated and Saturated
  • Monounsaturated is the healthiest kind of fat found in olives/olive oil, nuts and nut oil, and canola oil
  • Polyunsaturated fat is another healthy fat found in corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil
  • Saturated fat is the worst fat for you as it contains the most cholesterol; found in meat and dairy products such as beef, pork, butter, cheese, coconut oil and egg yolks
  • Nutritionists recommend that fat make up no more than 30 percent of your daily calorie intake

Simple Healthy Substitutes 

White Rice → Brown RiceMilk Chocolate →Dark Chocolate
White Bread→Wheat/Multigrain BreadIce Cream→Frozen Yogurt
Sour Cream→Fat Free Plain YogurtChips→Lightly Buttered Popcorn
Whole/2% Milk→Low-Fat/Skim MilkSoda→Flavored Water
Beef→TurkeyFried Chicken→Grilled Chicken

Sources: Eat Right

              Healthy Children

              Kaiser Permanente

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