Fourteen years old marks a time of change. Most adolescents start puberty or are in the process of puberty changes. These changes may bring a teenager pride or embarrassment and many struggle with self esteem issues. These changes during puberty are normal and help a teenager grow into a healthy adult. However, the desire to lose weight often arises as the physical changes occur. During this time should a fourteen year old attempt weight loss? And how many calories should a fourteen year old eat for weight loss?
A moderately active 14-year old female needs approximately 2,000 calories per day for a healthy weight. A moderately active 14-year old male needs approximately 2,400 calories per day for a healthy weight. Weight loss is rarely encouraged for a fourteen year old due to the essential growth and development occurring during this stage in life. Instead, a fourteen year old should focus on creating lifelong healthy habits. A 14-year old can get to a healthy weight with habits such as eating a varied, balanced and adequate meal pattern, regular physical activity, sleep and stress management. With weight concerns, a teenager often receives the recommendation to slow down weight gain rather than lose weight.
Keep reading for more information on helping a 14-year old get to the best weight possible and know the right calories for their body.
How Many Calories Should a 14-Year Old Eat?
The following table gives general calorie information for healthy weight maintenance. However, individuals can vary greatly in calorie needs based on age, height, weight, body composition, activity level, and more. A fourteen year old should eat enough to feel energized and satisfied throughout the day.
Recommended Calorie Intakes for Teenagers:
Female Calorie Recommendations:
Male Calorie Recommendations:
- Not Active – Minimum activity, just daily movements (walking, stairs, chores, etc.).
- Moderately Active – Standard daily activities plus 30-40 minutes of physical activity.
- Active – Standard daily activities plus 40+ minutes of physical activity.
Are There Reasons When a 14-Year Old Should Lose Weight?
Generally when healthcare professionals express concern about the weight of those younger than eighteen, they will recommend healthy behaviors over weight loss. Often the teenager receives the suggestion to “grow into their weight” as their height changes because a loss of weight can affect necessary growth and development.
Doctor’s track a teen’s height and weight on growth charts each year at regular check-ups. If a teenager’s weight on a growth chart has been increasing over time in the overweight or obese categories, this teen may want to speak to a doctor or registered dietitian about their weight concerns.
Hardly any teenagers are recommended to lose weight. Never try to lose weight without the help and recommendation by your healthcare professional. Some teenagers who are morbidly obese or have specific health problems may be recommended to lose weight.
Do Restricting and Dieting Work for Teens to Lose Weight?
Low calorie, paleo, keto, low fat and other known diets may appeal to a fourteen year old looking to lose weight. However, these diets involve restriction, which can cause harm and rarely result in a long term healthy weight. Creating good eating habits now, that can be maintained over a lifetime, will best support a teenager’s current and future health.
A healthy eating pattern is one that avoids restriction and emphasizes adequacy, balance, variety and moderation. Restriction of any sort leads to nutrient deficiencies, binging, and other health consequences.
While a restrictive diet may lead to fast weight loss, this weight loss usually comes from a loss of water and muscle. The restrictive nature of the diet makes following a diet difficult to maintain. In fact, research shows those who follow extreme diets tend to gain back the weight lost and more. A severe calorie deficiency can even slow metabolism to where the body uses less calories then it did before. Changes made to improve lifelong health instead of pursuing a number on the scale will be of the most benefit to overall health.
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What Does A Healthy Meal Pattern Look Like for a 14-Year Old?
Choosemyplate.org contains many resources helpful to determine more personalized information regarding a healthy eating pattern.
Here are some of the most beneficial suggestions:
Fruits and Vegetables
Fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals are just some of the many healthful benefits of fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps with digestion, prevention of constipation and feeling full. Fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals reduce the risk for diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Vitamins and minerals are essential for growth, development, the immune system, energy utilization and so much more. Fruits and vegetables also assist with hydration and maintaining a healthy weight.
Fruits and vegetables are considered nutrient dense foods, which means they contain more nutrients per calorie compared to other foods. The unparalleled nutrient density of these foods make them an important part of a teenager’s diet. A fourteen year old should make half the plate fruits and vegetables at mealtimes or eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Protein is the building block of the body and necessary to development and growth. Protein foods usually provide iron and zinc as well. These minerals help with development along with energy and fighting illness.
Protein takes more time and energy to digest than other macronutrients. This characteristic of protein means it helps keep blood sugars stable and individuals to feel full longer. Including protein foods with each meal and snack can assist with the goal of maintaining a healthy weight.
Teenagers obtain protein from many food sources. However, red meats, processed meats and some dairy products contain higher amounts of saturated fat. These protein sources should be consumed less frequently than other sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and lower fat dairy. A fourteen year old should aim to make one fourth of the plate protein.
As mentioned previously, dairy contains protein. It also provides a good source of bone building nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are especially important during the teen years as most bone building occurs before adulthood.
The recommendation for dairy is to choose low-fat options more often. Also, consuming about three servings of dairy daily will promote strong bone growth along with physical activity and eating other nutrient dense foods such as vegetables.
Those who avoid dairy due to lactose intolerance or other reasons can still meet their calcium needs through other foods. Foods high in calcium include fortified plant milk and juice, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tofu and almonds.
Grains provide energy, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Many try to promote the idea that carbohydrates and; therefore, grains cause weight gain. However, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body and excess calories, not carbohydrates cause weight gain.
Restriction of carbohydrate foods, including grains will negatively impact the health of a fourteen year old. First, teenagers will tire easily and may experience brain fog. They may also experience constipation and other digestion issues due to lack of fiber in the diet. Carbohydrate restriction may also lead to unhealthy binging. Ultimately a teen restricting carbohydrates may see problems arise with maintaining a healthy weight, growth and development.
A healthy plate should be about one fourth grains. Try to make half the grains whole in order to take advantage of all the health benefits grains offer.
Don’t forget about fluids in developing a healthy meal pattern. Hydration is key to overall health. Adequate fluids promote better digestion, energy and brain health. Poor hydration will keep a teenager from functioning at their best.
The feeling of thirst is a later sign of dehydration. Fluids should be consumed throughout the day, not just when someone feels thirsty. The color of urine indicates hydration levels, with a pale yellow the preferred color.
One should swap sugar sweetened beverages (soda, energy drinks, chocolate milk, fruit drinks) with unsweetened beverages (water, milk, protein drinks). Sugar sweetened beverages often contain little nutrition, but can lead to consuming too many calories.
Fat might sound a little scary, but remains essential to a healthy diet. Fats help with nutrient absorption, feeling full, taste, development and energy. Some fats are better for health than other fats.
Saturated fats found in butter, processed foods, fried foods, desserts, etc. should be eaten less than unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats promote good health when eaten in moderation. These fats are found in fish, oils, nuts and avocados. A little bit of fat should be found in each meal.
Sugar, Saturated Fats and Sodium
Studies show an association between intake of sugar, saturated fats and sodium with increased risk of chronic disease and poor health. Due to this link, foods high in these components should be limited. However, they can still be enjoyed on occasion as part of an overall healthy diet.
Avoid The All Or Nothing Mindset
Part of eating a healthy diet includes avoiding the all or nothing mindset. This mindset can create a cycle of restriction, purging and binging.
Someone with this mindset may avoid all sweets. This restriction increases the desire for a treat. Eventually this individual will eat the “forbidden” treat and feel intense guilt or shame. The individual will feel like a failure and then eat whatever treats are on hand, with the idea of restricting or purging again to make up for it. Thus, starting the process all over again.
Instead of this all or nothing approach, a fourteen year-old should practice compassion and moderation. Moderation means avoiding extremes in restriction or overconsumption. Practicing moderation is enjoying the treat while eating a good balance of all the other food groups. Showing compassion involves not beating one self up over eating a treat or other restricted food.
What Makes A Healthy Lifestyle for a 14-year old?
Dietary choices play a significant role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Other factors contribute to good health as well. Fourteen year olds will also want to prioritize sleep with 8-10 hours every night. Teenagers are also recommended to participate in 60 minutes of physical activity daily and manage stress. Creating healthy and sustainable habits in all these areas will help a fourteen year old maximize their health now and for the rest of their lives.
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