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Nutrition for teenage boys

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Nutrition for teenage boys

Why is good nutrition so important for teenage boys?

Between the ages of 13 and 17 most boys will gain around 17kg or 37lbs. That is quite a growth spurt in just four years and a lot of food is required to achieve this growth.

Teenage boys are known for their enormous appetites and they usually eat so much food that they rarely lack any particular vitamin or mineral. As with all things in life, however, there are limits for good health.

Too much of any one sort of food will lead to an imbalance. So how do you eat well? How do you prevent excessive weight gain and avoid obesity? What should you eat to perform well at sport?

What about weight gain?

Weight gain or even obesity can result from eating too much. Currently about half the adult population (male and female) is overweight.

Being overweight has serious drawbacks for young people. You are more likely to be picked on or bullied if you are overweight and you are less likely to do well at sport.

What is the key to a healthy diet?

A wide variety of food is the key to a healthy diet, especially if you are a male between 13 and 17 years.

Plenty of 'white foods' is what you should aim for. This means a large helping of either bread, potatoes, rice or pasta should be included in every meal.

If it is breakfast time, breakfast cereal should be included.

These starchy foods are energy giving foods, which are needed in large amounts to support the growth spurt of your teenage years.

You also need one-and-a-half pints of milk throughout the day, as well as a piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables at each meal. You should be eating four or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

Am I allowed to snack?

Yes. In fact snacking is good for you as long as the snacks are healthy.

When energy intake needs to be high, eating between meals helps you get there. Snacking is good for you because it helps keep your energy levels constant.

Some snacks are better than others at supplying energy, vitamins and minerals. Healthy snacks to choose from include a bowl of breakfast cereal (at any time), a sandwich, bread and peanut butter, toast, beans/spaghetti on toast, cheese strings, yoghurt, a yoghurt drink, a milkshake, a cereal bar, cheese and crackers, fruit, a fruit scone, rice cakes, oat cakes and bread sticks.

What about exercise?

Regular exercise is important so that you get a balance between the energy you eat and the energy you expend (use up).

Exercise such as cycling, soccer, skateboarding or any other sport that you enjoy is a good way to keep the balance right.

What about nutrition and sport?

A lot of leisure time is spent on activities which are not physically demanding such as watching television and videos, playing computer games and surfing the net. So for many, sport is an excellent way of getting exercise and stimulating muscle growth. Boys start to gain muscle at about 14 years old.

The foods which all serious sports people eat a lot of are bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. These are carbohydrate rich foods and you need to plan to eat more of these foods before and after training or a match. Do not depend on snacks from a vending machine or a local shop.

The types of snacks you should choose are sandwiches made with thick slices of bread, all types of breakfast cereals, milk, fruit, yoghurt, biscuits and cereal bars.

Cakes and desserts also contain carbohydrates and can supplement your energy needs, but should only be eaten occasionally.

Protein rich foods such as cheese, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, milk and yoghurt should be eaten after exercise. So pack an extra ham or cheese sandwich in your kit bag and have it after a match with a pint of milk.

Nuala Collins, BSc, Nutrition and Dietetics

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