Nutrition For Female Adolescents: What Does The Research Say?
The most important period in a girl’s life is the one she spends during adolescence, between the ages of 12 and 18. It is a time when her body goes through dramatic changes which have a big impact on her health and well-being. These are formative years when girls develop their personalities, decide on future careers, and more importantly, set patterns for what they eat that in many cases will last until old age.
What are the dietary needs of female adolescents?
Female adolescents have different nutritional needs than either children or adults. They need more calories and certain vitamins and minerals than either of those groups, but less fat.
During adolescence, girls experience a growth spurt. They grow taller and gain weight. This increased size requires more energy, which means more calories. In addition, girls’ bodies are changing in preparation for reproduction, which also requires extra energy. The combination of these two factors means that female adolescents need about 20% more calories than they did as children and about 10% more calories than they will need as adults.
Girls also have higher needs for certain vitamins and minerals during adolescence. For example, their iron requirements increase during this time because they are losing iron through menstruation. They also need more calcium to support the development of their bones and teeth.
Despite these higher calorie and nutrient needs, adolescent girls should not consume more fat than they did as children. In fact, they should consume less saturated and trans fats and replace them with unsaturated fats. This change will help reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
What foods should they avoid?
There are a few specific foods that female adolescents should avoid in order to maintain a healthy diet. These include sugary drinks, processed meats, and refined grains.
Sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks can contribute to weight gain and health problems like diabetes. Processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meats are high in sodium and unhealthy fats. Refined grains like white bread and pasta have been stripped of their nutrients and fiber, so they offer little nutritional value.
Female adolescents should also limit their intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. These can be found in fried foods, fast food, processed snacks, and baked goods. Too much of these unhealthy fats can lead to heart disease and other health problems down the road.