Teenage girls have different calorie needs than older women and than younger girls. They also have different needs than boys their age, who generally need to consume more calories each day than girls. Teach your teenager to eat healthy, nutritious foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins, to make sure she gets the calories and nutrition she needs each day.
The USDA recommends that girls between the ages of 14 and 18 take in between 1,800 and 2,400 calories each day. Their recommendations are estimates based on how active the teenage girl is. The actual number of calories your teenager needs to maintain a healthy weight may vary. Of those calories, up to 30 percent should come from protein, fewer than 35 percent from fat and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates.
A teenage girl who spends her day sitting in a classroom and participating in sedentary activities, such as watching television or reading, will need far fewer calories than a teenager who participates in after-school sports or who gets a lot of exercise. The USDA has three categories to define a teenager’s activity level. Sedentary is a girl who gets less than 30 minutes of physical activity every day, while an active girl gets more than 60 minutes per day. A moderately active teenager gets 30 to 60 minutes of activity every day. A teenager who is still growing rapidly may need more calories than one who has finished growing.
Where the Calories Should Come From
A teenage girl should strive to get her calories from a mix of fruit, vegetables, dairy or other calcium-rich foods, grains and lean protein. The average teenager should eat 2 cups fruit and 2.5 cups vegetables each day. She should eat a good mixture of vegetables, from dark green ones, such as broccoli and spinach, to brightly colored ones, such as carrots. Teenage girls also need about 5.5 oz. protein, such as fish or chicken daily, for a total of about 46 g protein.
In addition to an adequate amount of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat, each day, teenage girls also need to make sure the food they eat provides enough of certain other nutrients such as calcium. The Mayo Clinic recommends that girls aged 14 to 18 consume 1,300 mg calcium each day, the amount in about 24 oz. milk or three 8-oz. servings of dairy. Teenagers also need about 26 g fiber daily. Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, as well as fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber.
Too Many Calories
It is possible for a teenage girl to eat too many calories each day. As with adults, if a teenage girl eats more calories than she uses through daily activities or exercise, she will gain weight. A girl who eats mostly processed foods or take-out may be more likely to eat too much, as she may not be aware of the amount of calories in the food.