Nutrition is one of the most influential elements in human health. It is important to create healthy nutrition habits at a young age as this will have a favorable impact in our health as teenagers. Keeping these habits during adulthood will also help us stay healthy throughout our lives. However, it can be challenging for teenagers to follow healthy diets because unhealthy foods are popular, widely available, and make an easy meal or snack.

Nutrition Facts

  • Male adolescents require 2,800 calories each day, while females require 2,200.

  • Calories from added sugars and solid fats make up 40% of daily calories in most teens, which has a very negative effect on health.

  • Only 36% of high school students eat breakfast every day.

  • 20.6% of adolescents are obese.

Tips for a Healthy Diet

Increase intake of:

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Proteins (nuts, eggs, beans, lean meats)

  • Low-fat dairy

  • Healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil)

  • Whole grains (at least half of the grains you eat should be whole grain)

  • Low-fat dairy

  • Vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D)

Decrease intake of:

  • Salts

  • Added sugars

  • Saturated fats

  • Solid fats (usually fats from animal origin)

  • Red meats


Vegetarianism, a diet that excludes animal products, has been proven to have several health benefits (reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, etc.) Diets that fall under the category of vegetarianism are:

  • Lacto-vegetarian: dairy products are included

  • Ovo-vegetarian: eggs are included

  • Pescatarian: fish products are included

  • Vegan: no animal products

To make sure you get enough of the nutrients you need, pay attention to the following:

  • Iron

  • Calcium

  • Protein

  • Vitamin D

  • Vitamin B-12

  • Zinc

  • Iodine

  • Omega 3

How to Understand the Nutrition Facts Label

  1. Serving size

  2. Calories

  3. Nutrients and daily value: daily value tells you if you are getting enough or too much of the nutrients you need each day.

  4. Nutrients to increase: these are essential nutrients that the average American is low on. These are listed here to encourage us to consume more of these nutrients.

Unhealthy Diets Can Cause:

  • Obesity

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Osteoporosis

  • Iron deficiency

  • Cavities

  • Worsening cognitive function

  • Worsening mood

Common Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia: refusal to eat caused by an obsessive desire to lose weight

  • Bulimia: episodes of overeating are followed by self-induced vomiting or fasting

  • Binge-eating disorder: frequent episodes of overeating

  • Rumination disorder: repeatedly regurgitating food after consumption, associated with infants and people with intellectual disabilities

  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder: refusal to eat for reasons other than fear of gaining weight

  • Obesity: weight that is higher than what is considered healthy for a given height


Obesity is currently one of the main public health crises in the United States. Obesity usually develops when you overeat (especially foods high in fats and sugars) and excercise too little. The energy that has not been burned is stored as fat. Obesity can cause several immediate health risks, including:

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Respiratory disorders

    • Asthma

    • Sleep apnea

  • Joint problems

  • Fatty liver disease

  • Gallstones

  • Heartburn

Future health risks:

  • Heart disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Increased risk of obesity and disease risk factors during adulthood

Asking the Experts

Interview with:

Candace O'Neill RD, LD

Registered Dietitian

Huizenga Executive Health Program

Cleveland Clinic Florida

Q: Do you think proper nutrition is currently a problem for teens?

A: Yes, eating a healthy diet is an important part for teen growth and development. The food we eat is used in our body to provide energy and nutrients like vitamins and minerals help bodies function properly. Over time, the foods we choose most often develop and shape our taste preferences and dietary habits. Some foods contain nutrients that if eaten frequently in large amounts are associated with health concerns as you get older. These foods are often lacking the nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. It is important to develop proper eating habits now to keep you healthy in the future.

Q: What do you think are some of the main ways to maintain proper nutrition in teenagers?

A: There are a few areas teens should consider when trying to improve their diets:

  1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day– Eating breakfast helps to maintain energy throughout the day, helps to improve concentration during school and it is also a time to increase intake of nutrients like calcium and iron needed for healthy bone and brain function. If you are not hungry in the morning, try making a smoothie for breakfast from low fat milk /soy milk with fruits, a handful of nuts and or seeds.

  2. Rethink your snacks – Teens have high energy needs, and therefore, they may be hungry throughout the day and then end up snacking in between meals. Teens often pick snacks that are convenient which can be energy dense; but, these snacks typically contain low amounts nutrients that promote health. Some snack foods are also high in sugars, salts and unhealthy fats. Some examples of healthy snack options are whole grain toast with natural peanut butter or sun butter, fruit or low fat cheese stick and fruit with whole grain crackers.

  3. Load up on fruit and veggies - Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that help our bodies function properly. However, many teens do not eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and are lacking these nutrients into their diets. Teens should think about adding color to every plate and add a fruit or vegetable to meals and snack such as adding baby carrots to sandwich or having a fruit for dessert with dinner.