Adolescence is a period of growth spurt, and here’s all you need to know about framing a balanced diet for teenagers to ensure they meet their requirements for growth and wellbeing!

Why healthy eating is important during adolescence
The phase of adolescence is considered transformative and is characterised by the growth and maturation of all organs and physiological systems. It is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, and a proper diet for teens can play a key role in influencing the several physical and emotional changes that are observed at this stage.

The following are a few reasons why it is necessary to develop a healthy teenage diet plan:

  • Growth and development: Adolescence is a period of rapid growth and includes physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. It is thus important to pay attention to adequate nutrition during this critical time to improve overall health.
  • The right time to correct malnutrition: The first 1000 days of life are considered essential in order to right the wrongs in terms of malnutrition. However, it doesn’t end with this, as adolescence is supposed to be the second window of opportunity for the correction of nutritional inadequacies that may have developed during childhood.
  • To lay a strong foundation for adulthood: Dietary risks can lead to overall health complications in the later years of life. Food and nutrition for teens are important factors to instil long-term lifestyle habits and prevent their exposure to nutritional risks, harmful behaviour, lack of physical activity, smoking and substance use.

Tips on diet plan and healthy food for teens

Adolescence may be a confusing period, as teens grow out of their childish behaviour and begin to take responsibility to step into the role of mature adults. Achieving a plan for healthy eating for teens can pose quite a challenge in this regard, as adolescents develop preferences and a firm mindset about their choices. Read on to learn some practical tips to help chalk out a healthy diet for teens:

  1. Opt for a balanced diet: A balanced diet provides all nutrients required by our body in the right proportion. This implies that teenage foods must contain a healthy amount of cereals, pulses and legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat. A balanced diet for teenagers influences overall health and is critical in preventing nutritional deficiencies.
  2. Take care of the portion size: Portion size in simple words correlates to the quantity of the food on the plate. Adolescents may be prone to developing binge eating disorder which is characterised by overeating large amounts of food or eating even in the absence of hunger. Thus it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the amount of food that goes on a teen’s plate to ensure no nutrient is being consumed in excess, which is often the case in obesity.
  3. Don’t skip breakfast: Arguably, as children step into the next chapter of their life, they may feel the pressure of achieving mighty goals and engaging in competition. However, healthy eating for teens calls for an action plan where they do not skip consuming the first meal of the day while prioritising academic activities. In fact, breakfast consumption in adolescents is positively correlated with behaviour and school performance.
  4. Food isn’t a reward: An essential habit for parents to inculcate in their children is that food should not be synonymous to reward. Children must not be given the idea that good behaviour will earn them their favourite treats. That way, when they enter adolescence, they will have a clearer idea to see food as a source of nutrients. Since this is the stage of emotional turmoil, the teenagers will not rely on food to make them feel better or as a coping mechanism for getting away from stress.
  5. Sow the seeds of knowledge: A healthy teenage diet plan starts with education. Adolescents must be aware of the right teenage foods to select and the consequences of poor eating choices. This responsibility may be shared between parents and teachers, where the teens can be taught to filter the information received and use their discretion to opt for healthier options.
  6. Restrict fast food culture: With the emerging social media trends, young minds may be easily influenced by the image that it’s trendy to eat fast food and drink carbonated beverages every day. While such eating behaviours may be adopted occasionally, it could be dangerous to make it an everyday habit. It is thus essential that adolescents differentiate fast foods from regular nutritious meals. For example, it is wise to not substitute a healthy egg and multigrain chapati for a burger at breakfast.
  7. Stay hydrated: For all age groups, including adolescents, it is important to drink sufficient water as it can improve cognition and mood. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), which may be quite popular among teens, should not be traded for water as they have been linked with an increased future risk of obesity and stroke.
  8. Meal time does not equate to screen time: Omitting devices like cell phones, tabs and television can help adolescents to practise mindful eating. A healthy diet for teens omits distractions around in a way that they can concentrate on the meal. In a study conducted, it was learnt that the feeling of satiety may be disrupted when one eats food while watching television and this can lead to an increase in the consumption of food while watching television.
  9. Eat fresh and smart: Healthy eating for teens also includes fresh foods which are less processed. The best way to inculcate this practice is as follows:
    • Eat a fruit instead of a sugar-loaded dessert when craving something sweet.
    • Adolescents may not like their greens, so the veggies can be smartly camouflaged in parathas, smoothies, wraps and fritters instead of the mainstream salad.
    • Food and nutrition for teens can be made convenient when they have a tight schedule ahead and are torn between academic and extracurricular activities. So, instead of serving a chapati and a side dish packed in a tiffin, they may be more likely to eat their lunch on the go when the two separate dishes are foil-wrapped into a frankie.


The foundation of adequate growth and development, which is laid in the mother’s womb and during childhood, continues through adolescence. It is a period of enormous change, and good eating practices form the cornerstone to achieving a state of optimum well-being and meeting the high nutritional demands. Healthy eating for teens thus makes it essential to consume a balanced diet to prevent malnutrition. It is equally important to limit the consumption of meals that are loaded with calories but lack essential micronutrients.

Although the convenience food counter may be slowly stealing the gaze of adolescents, with the right knowledge and practical guidelines, it is possible for teenagers to practise mindful eating such that they grow into healthy adults prepared to take on the challenges of life.