Adolescence is a crucial time for the growth and development of individuals. This is the time when the body is going through major physical, hormonal and mental changes and at this point, a proper diet plays a crucial role in the growth and development as well as prevention of future health issues. Especially for girls, the need for a proper diet is important to support their reproductive health and prevent hormonal disturbances.
18% of the world’s population accounts of adolescents and India is home to most of the adolescents – 243 million – out of which 50% of girls are underweight.
Given below are the important dietary requirements which should be incorporated in adolescent girl’s diet.
Average daily energy requirements for a girl between 10 to 19 years is 2100 kcal.
Indian diet comprises of good sources of carbs such as wheat, rice, potatoes, millets etc. but the consumption of carbohydrate should be carefully regulated since excessive carbohydrate may convert to fats and result into weight problems. Also, the consumption of good carbs (low glycemic index) is important.
Food to include
Food to avoid
|Whole grain pasta and bread, multigrain atta, oats, sweet potatoes, potatoes, banana, almonds||Refined flour, refined sugar, sweetened drinks|
Average dietary intake of protein for an adolescent girl should be 45-60 gms and most of the Indian girls are deficient in their daily protein intake. Proteins are the building blocks of the body. During adolescence, there is a growth spurt and insufficient protein intake results in the reduction in linear growth, poor built and delayed sexual maturation.
Food to include – chicken, eggs, dairy products, tofu, cottage cheese, soy foods, beans, lentils.
Myth– eggs result in cholesterol issues. Yes, eggs contain cholesterol and so does each and every cell of our body. Our body cells require fat and cholesterol in their sustainability. Average 2 eggs a day is good for adolescents and does not increase cholesterol.
Tip– to make eggs interesting they can be cooked as muffins, egg roll, french toast which are stomach filling and at the same time nutritious.
The average daily requirement of calcium for adolescent girls is 1200 mgms.
Teenager’s body has a higher requirement of calcium compared to children and adults. There is an increased need for calcium for the development of dense bone mass and deficiency of calcium increases the risk of osteoporosis in the future. Girls in the age group 10-19 years need daily 3-4 servings of calcium-rich food.
Food to include– milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese
1 glass of milk and 1 cup of yoghurt contain around 300 mgms of calcium.
Tip– milk can be taken in form of custard, pudding, smoothies. Flavoured yoghurt enhances the taste and cottage cheese can be seasoned over sandwiches, pasta etc.
Zinc plays an important role in the growth and sexual maturation. Serum zinc levels decline in response to rapid growth and hormonal changes during puberty. Therefore, a good supply of zinc is necessary during teenage years.
Food to include- oysters are a rich source of zinc but this might not be accessible to everyone. The other important sources of zinc include- pomegranate, avocado, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, dark chocolate.
Iron and folate-
Iron is required by haemoglobin for carrying oxygen to tissues so the deficiency of iron results in anaemia. On the other hand, folate helps in DNA, RNA and protein synthesis which is required by every cell including RBCs. Deficiency of iron and folate cause anaemia resulting in pallor, fatigue, growth retardation and menstrual irregularities.
Sadly, 56% of adolescent girls are anaemic in India.
Foods to include in diet–
folate-rich food includes- cooked lentils, cooked kidney beans, cooked broccoli, flax seeds, papaya, green leafy vegetables (only slightly cooked)
Iron-rich food includes- liver, green leafy vegetables, beetroot, papaya, red meat.
Tip– Iron is better absorbed with Vitamin C so citrus fruit juices (like lemon) can be added with iron-rich food. Iron is NOT absorbed well by the body with calcium and caffeine.
So these are the most essential nutrients which should be provided to adolescent girls in the right quantity to ensure a better health. Let’s promote the necessity of good health and nutrition for adolescent girls.