Following the rapid growth phase in infancy, teen years are the fastest growth stage of life. A moderately active teenage boy requires about 2800 - 3000 calories per day, and about 2200 - 2300 for girls. Calories supply the energy needed for growth and physical activities. The healthiest way to control a child's weight is to serve foods with enough calories (but not too many) for normal growth and activity. Restricting calories for very young children is not advised since it can have a negative effect on growth and development. The best way to control weight gain is through exercise. Approximately 40% of all children in the U.S. are overweight and not physically fit. Let an overweight child "grow into their weight" by limiting empty calorie snacks and increasing physical activity. Typically, children ages 6 - 12 grow about 2 inches in height and gain about 5 lbs. per year. Teen boys can grow as much as 4 inches in height in one year.
To help your child to become more active, encourage them to walk to school and get involved in sports as well as limiting TV and video games. Active kids require 6 - 8 cups of water each day, in addition to fluids every 15 minutes during sporting events and physical exertion.
Even with some knowledge of nutrition, teenagers may develop poor eating habits due to peer pressure, busy schedules, and readily available fast foods. Poor food choices often lead to low amounts of iron and calcium in their diets, which are crucial for bone, muscle, and mental development. Low iron levels can especially be a problem for girls due to their menstrual flow. Encourage kids and teens to drink milk and calcium enriched orange juice instead of sodas. Iron rich foods such as red meats, poultry, shellfish, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, and fortified grains are good ways to increase iron intake. When you serve plant sources of iron, also serve foods high in vitamin C (i.e. orange juice) to increase the amount of iron your teen's body can absorb. Monitor what your child is and isn't eating. Seek professional help if you think your child is beginning to develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are deeply psychological - not just an issue of food preferences or weight control.