Every adolescent needs protein-rich food for proper growth and development, especially when involved in sports and athletics. A proper supply of adequate protein will help in muscle formation and improve the immune system.

Teenagers often live an active lifestyle, balancing their studies with several co-curricular activities. Be it sports or music; they are always eager to grasp new ideas and learn new concepts. With so much to do, they need proper meals to enable the body to function in the right manner. If teens do not get proper meals, chances are high of them savouring unhealthy foods and becoming addicted to such diets.

Why is protein important for teens?

As children hit puberty, they tend to grow rapidly. Their entire body transforms, whereby they grow physically, mentally, intellectually, and emotionally. This is the time when their appetite also increases. This calls for a diet rich in protein, healthy carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein is one of the vital nutrients that fuels the body and helps teens maintain an active lifestyle without getting subjected to lethargy. Essentially, protein is made up of amino acids, which are regarded as the body’s building blocks.

Protein rich foods for teens ensure their physical growth does not get interrupted by enabling the proper development of their muscles, while also increasing their height.

Protein foods for teenagers help in filling up their fuel tanks, and allow them to remain energetic all day long. When the body absorbs protein, this nutrient carries oxygen throughout the body, helps make antibodies to thwart illnesses and infections, and sustains healthy cells while creating new ones. Creating a diet of protein rich foods for teens also allows their bodies to repair muscles whenever needed.

When the calorie intake is less, the body finds it tough to break down protein and produce energy. This ultimately leads to protein deficiency in the body, inviting fatigue, weakness, lack of concentration, hair fall, skin problems, and other health challenges.

How much protein is enough for teens?

Protein foods for teens must be selected, keeping in mind the requirement as they vary depending on age, sex, weight, and stage of development. Humans typically need around 1 gram of protein per kilogram of their body weight. If your child weighs 32 kg, provide him or her with 32 grams of protein. However, the scenario is slightly different for highly active teens, such as athletes or those involved in outdoor sports or adventure activities. Their need for protein can be greater, calling for a much more high-protein diet. Hence, a high protein diet for teenagers should not be taken as a blanket statement.

Protein foods for teenagers should be evenly divided in their meals, including snacks, to get the optimum protein on a daily basis.

Protein foods for teenagers

Teenage life is tricky because your taste buds get introduced to a variety of drool-worthy junk foods, but enjoying them in excess can invite serious trouble. But do you know high protein foods for teens can also be yummy? Here are some options that are good for both your cravings and health.

1. Cereals and millets

Grains are a nutritious staple that provide essential calories, carbohydrates, B-vitamins, and protein. Whole unrefined grains are particularly rich in protein, with the bran and germ containing the highest amount of protein per carb.

Several grains including cornmeal, kamut, teff, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, wild rice, millets, couscous, oatmeal, and buckwheat are also excellent sources of protein. A single cup of cooked whole grains can contribute 6-20% towards meeting the daily requirement for protein for teenagers.

A teen male needs 15 servings (each serving 30g raw) of cereals and a teen girl 11 servings (each serving 30g raw) per day to meet their nutrient requirements.

2. Pulses and legumes

Around 100g of black beans contain around 24.4 g of protein. Other varieties of beans are also pretty close behind in their protein content. Make vegetable curry with them, add them to stew or soup, or simply stir-fry them; there are multiple ways to include beans in the diet.

Another great source of protein is soyabean or soybean, which comes in green, yellow, and black variants. You get as much as 12.35g of protein from 100g of soybean. Preparing tasty dishes using soybeans is also very easy. For instance, you can use soybean granules with mushrooms to steam delicious soya-mushroom momo. Similarly, chickpeas also provide about 8.8g of protein per 100g. You can use this member of the legume family to prepare delicious dishes such as sprouted chickpea beetroot frankie.

Lentils are a good source of protein, and it is very easy to include them in the diet. Also, they are quite a colourful addition to your diet, from brown and black to red-orange, yellow, and green. On average, around 100g of boiled lentils contain 9g of protein.

A teenage male needs to consume 3 servings (each serving 30 gm raw) of pulses per day and a teenage girl requires 2.5 servings (each serving 30 gm raw) of pulses a day.

3. Milk and milk products

A glass of milk (244g) can fulfil the protein requirement by 8 g. Now, if your teen detests milk, be creative and make a variety of smoothies that they cannot resist.

Other food items can supply the required amount of protein to adolescents. However, protein drinks for teenagers are also an excellent option if they are the picky types.

If a bowl of yoghurt appears bland, turn it into some fantastic yoghurt bowls containing your teen’s favourite fruits and nuts. Creamy Greek yoghurts are also quite tempting. Around 100g of Greek yoghurt has about 10.2g of protein as opposed to just 3.82g of protein per 100g of plain yoghurt. Snacking on yoghurt is also an excellent option to shed those extra kilos and satiate hunger.

Who doesn’t love cheese? Another reason to love cheese is for its high protein content. While 100g of Cheddar cheese contains around 25g of protein, Swiss cheese of the same quantity has 27 g of protein. Though processed cheese commonly available in India is high in fat, occasionally treating your teens with cheesy dishes in controlled portion sizes can help fulfil their protein requirements.

Both male and female teenagers need 500ml/daily of milk not only to fulfil the protein requirement but also that of micronutrients.

4. Non-vegetarian foods

Eggs need no introduction. They are as nutritious as they are tasty. Also, they are super easy to cook. A boiled egg of 100g contains 13g of protein.

Most teens drool over chicken. So, including them in meals is not a challenging task. You can bake, stir-fry or grill chicken to make some healthy recipes. A 100g of chicken boasts around 27g of protein.

Various low-fat and high-protein fish options can make your meals delicious. Some of them are tuna, salmon, cod, flounder, halibut, etc. While cooked Atlantic Salmon (100g) contains 22g of protein, skipjack tuna offers 28g of protein per 100g. 50g of meat is recommended for both male and female teenagers.

5. Nuts and seeds

Almond, walnut, and sunflower seeds are some nut and seed varieties that taste delicious as well as come packed with protein. For instance, 100g of almonds provide 21.4g of protein, an equal quantity of walnut has 14.6g of protein, while 100g of sunflower seed kernels yield 21g of protein. Around 30g daily is enough to supply the body with the required nutrients.


It is essential to strike the right balance between various nutrients when going for a high-protein diet for teenagers. Cutting down on protein has its fallouts. Therefore, it is necessary to find the right food items that are tasty and easy to include in their diets. Protein-rich nutritious meals are essential to give their body the right impetus to remain healthy. You can include recipes such as chicken and vegetable wrap, oats achari paneer khichdi, boiled egg sandwich, chickpea tikki, rajma paneer beetroot frankie, and makai paneer, among other tasty and high-protein diet dishes to increase the protein content of your meals.