Healthy eating for teenagers
The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and development, so a healthy balanced diet is particularly important. Healthy, active young people can have large appetites. If you’re a teenager, it’s important to eat well-balanced meals, rather than too many snacks that are high in fat, sugar or salt.
What to eat
You should eat a healthy balanced diet that matches your energy needs. This should be made up of the four main food groups of the Eatwell Guide:
- fruit and vegetables
- potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods
- beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other proteins
- dairy and alternatives
Fruit and vegetables
All age groups are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Research shows that five portions a day can help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. Fruit and vegetables are also full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are low in fat.
A portion is about 80g. Examples of a portion include:
- one medium-sized piece of fruit, such as an apple, orange, banana or pear
- two small fruits, such as kiwi, satsuma or plums
- one large slice of pineapple or melon
- one tablespoon of dried fruit
- three heaped tablespoons of fresh or frozen vegetables
- one glass (approximately 150ml) of fresh fruit juice or a smoothie
Dried fruit and fruit juices or smoothies can each be counted as only one portion a day, however much you have. Both dried fruit and juices should be taken with a meal as the high sugar content can be damaging to teeth otherwise.
Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods
Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta are a good source of energy, fibre and B vitamins and should be used as the basis for meals. Choose higher-fibre, wholegrain varieties such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or by leaving the skin on potatoes.
Wholegrain food contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food, and often more of other nutrients. We also digest wholegrain food more slowly and can help us feel full for longer. They also help prevent constipation, protect against some cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Starchy foods are also low in fat, though the butter or creamy sauces that are often added to them can have a higher fat