Ask any 15 year old if they should eat fat and their answer will likely be “no way”. Saturated fat can be extremely unhealthy, but foods higher in unsaturated fats can promote healthy growth for teens. Fat is needed for the human body, especially an adolescent one, to be healthy, but too much can be a bad thing too. What’s the balance?
15 year old females typically need about 55-75 grams of fat per day. Teen males typically need about 67-101 grams of fat per day. For 15-year olds to be healthy, their diet needs to include fat. Not all fats are created equal, but this article can help you to differentiate between the sources that put a teen at risk and nutrient-rich sources for a healthy future.
Read on to find out exactly how much fat your 15-year-old should be getting, benefits of fat for teens, which sources of dietary fat are the healthiest, and the top fat tips from a dietitian.
How Much Fat Does My 15-year-old Need Each Day?
The general goal for teenagers recommended by the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition and Institutes of Medicine (IOM) is that 25-35% of total calories a day come from healthy fats each day.
Since each gram of dietary fat delivers nine calories, compared to the four each of carbohydrates and protein, dietary fat intake and activity levels determine the appropriate amount of fat needed. This makes sense because fat gives more calories to the body while exercise burns calories.
For teens that need 2,000 calories per day, that works out to about 55-75 grams of fat daily. For a typical 2,800 calorie diet, the recommended 25-35% of total calories coming from fat in the diet should equal approxiamately 78-109 grams per day. For teens that need 3,000 calories per day, that equals about 83-117 grams of fat per day.
How to Find Exactly How Much Fat Your Teen Needs
- Calculate calorie needs, based on age (15 years) and activity levels (see descriptions below). The following table can help you to figure out how many calories your teen needs based on these factors.
|Gender||Age||Not Active:||Moderately Active:||Active:|
- 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.
- Based on total calories, find the percentage of fat your teen needs. Teens should consume 25-35% of calories as fat. For example, a moderately active 15-year-old boy needs about 2,400-2,600 calories. To find out how much of that needs to be fat, you would take 25-35% of 2,400-2,600. You can do this by multiplying 0.25-0.35 by the number of calories your teen needs. This equals about 600-910 calories per day coming from healthy fats for a moderately active 15-year-old boy.
- Convert calories to grams Once you know the number of calories in the diet that should be fat in the diet, it is actually quite easy to calculate the amount of fat in grams. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories, so to figure out the number of grams your teen should be consuming in healthy fat each day, you simply take the number of calories and divide it by 9. A moderately active 15-year-old boy would need 600-910 calories of fat, which is equal to 67-101 grams of healthy fat each day.
What Types of Fat Should My 15-year-old Teen Be Eating?
Most foods contain a mix of fats. Some fats are good for you. Some fats are less good for you. Foods contain a mix of both kinds of fats. Choose foods that contain more of the healthy fats and are nutrient-rich.
In other words, nutrient-rich fat sources make sure that teens are getting nourished along with a healthy amount of calories. Eating foods with fat is an important part of a healthy diet.
It is crucial to long-term health that teens understand how to choose nutrient-dense dietary fats as their fat sources for the day. The key is to pick fat types for your teen that are higher in unsaturated sources and lower in saturated and trans fats.
Understanding Fat on Food Labels
When it comes to fats, it is important to understand the difference between the different kinds of fats. Just like sugar, companies can sneak fat into labels using terms like “hydrogenated oil” or “vegetable shortening”.
As you read a food label, notice the amount of fat is listed as well as the types of fat.
Choose foods with unsaturated fat, limit foods with saturated fat, and avoid foods with trans fat.
Trans fats can increase disease risk, even when consumed in small quantities. Trans fats are found in processed foods like baked goods, frozen pizzas, and also shortening and stick margarine.
Like trans fats, saturated fats can contribute to an increase in disease risk. Saturated fats are often found in highly processed foods, such as the following:
- Red meat
- Ice cream
- Baked Goods
An easy way to help 15-year olds incorporate healthy fats into a balanced diet is to follow this simple, general guide to choosing fats:
|Saturated fat– high levels can cause heart disease and stroke|
|Unsaturated fat– Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats*|
*Polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3-fats, are often referred to by their three-letter acronyms- ALA DHA, or EPA.
The following infographic from the American Heart Association can also help you to navigate healthy fat sources.
Fats can be tricky — foods that are trans- or saturated-fat-free can still be full with sugar and other additives. Read the whole label to be sure that the food you are evaluating is made from nutritious ingredients combined with healthy fats.
Establishing a Healthy Eating Pattern for Teens
It’s important to invest in and model healthy habits for 15-year olds. At this impressionable stage, key dietary habits include getting the proper nourishment and choosing healthy fats to support maturing bodies.
Instead of being overwhelmed, try choosing more foods labeled “Monounsaturated” and “Polyunsaturated”. These foods have unsaturated dietary fats that typically come from nutrient-rich sources. Limit foods with higher levels of “Saturated” and “Trans” fats.
The following table from the Harvard School of Public Health is a great tool for figuring out which types of fat 15-year olds can choose to add more of or limit in their diet.
Remember, most fat sources have a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats. Choose a source that is mostly unsaturated such as plant oils in cooking. Fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados are also great sources of healthy fat.
Should Teenagers Eat Coconut Oil?
What about “healthy” and “trendy” fad fat foods, like coconut oil?
Over the past few years, tropical oils like palm and coconut oil have become trendy in plant-based products and even many health foods.
It is important that 15-year olds know that just because a food is labeled “healthy” doesn’t mean it is healthy. I know– it can be confusing! Coconut oil might be healthier than alternative sources of fats, but that doesn’t mean it is the most nutritious choice. Look at the chart above, coconut oil contains mostly saturated fat, making it a less healthy choice.
Be aware that any source of trans fat should be avoided, and sources of saturated fat should be limited. Coconut oil and other palm or tropical oils can be high in saturated fats when compared to other plant oils.
When it comes to cooking oils, opt instead for plant oils rich in unsaturated fats, such as the following:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
These oils are also rich sources of vitamin E and can help keep the body healthy. Vitamin E is used by the body to protect everything from red blood cells to body tissues to skin and scalp health.
What About “Plant-Based” or “Natural” Buttery Spreads?
Be sure to read a product label, and look for unsaturated sources of fats and omega-3s.
Plant-based buttery spreads can also be a sneaky source of saturated and trans fats. It’s important to note that labels can sometimes use the term “natural” or “plant-based” to draw attention away from these fat sources.
What Are Popular Fatty Foods for Teenagers?
Fried foods are a common source of fat in the teen years. Adolescents don’t have to cut these out altogether, however it would be wise to have teens learn how to choose smaller portions. These foods are often high in calories and can cause unhealthy weight gain.
What About Fat-Free Foods?
Fat-free foods aren’t always the healthier choice. They can often be packed with processed ingredients and are higher in salt, sugar, or starch than the full-fat versions sometimes. For this reason, the fat-containing version may actually be healthier. How can you tell which one is the best choice for your teen? You guessed it– learn how to read the label (or find an expert like a dietitian for help).
Healthy Fat Foods for Teens
Feeling overwhelmed? Let’s simplify the process for getting 15 year-olds the right amount of fat!
Here’s the key idea: Replace saturated fat sources with unsaturated (“healthy”) dietary fat sources. Unsaturated “healthy” fats are generally nutrient-rich and provide the proper amount of calories combined with vitamins and minerals.
Any of the foods from the following list can make a great addition to a meal:
High in Monounsaturated Fats
- Nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pecans)
- Oils (peanut, olive, and canola)
- Peanut butter
- Seeds (pumpkin, sesame)
High in Polyunsaturated Fats
- Oils (sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed, canola)
Healthier Cooking Oils
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
For internet-savvy teens, the ChooseMyPlate page on eating healthy oils can also be an excellent resource for finding out how much dietary fat oils and other foods contain.
Do Teenagers Need to Eat Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fats are an important kind of polyunsaturated fat. The body can’t make omega-3s on its own, so teens must consume foods that contain them in order to get the appropriate amount.
Foods that are high in omega-3s include:
- Fatty fish
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Oils (canola, soybean)
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important nutrient for a teenager’s diet. Omega-3s are essential for brain and heart health and provides so many benefits to a growing teen. Most teens don’t eat enough fish, nuts, and seeds, so a focus on adding foods with omega-3 fats is extremely important!
- What are the Best and Worst Foods for a Teenager to Eat?
- What is the Best Diet Plan for a 15 Year-Old? Tips from a Dietitian
- How Much Fat Does a Teen Need Per Day? Ask a Dietitian!
- Is it Easy to Lose Weight as a Teenager?
The Benefits of Eating Healthy Fats for 15-Year Olds
Why do teenagers need to eat fat? Healthy fat intake is extra important for 15-year olds because certain fats are essential to helping the body grow and mature normally.
The benefits of eating healthy fats are plenty, but the primary points include:
- Promotion of normal brain and nervous system function
- Support of heart health
- Lowers “bad” cholesterol & triglyceride levels
- Protection against eye disease
- Reduction of body inflammation
- Lower rates of heart disease risk and all-cause mortality
- Provides essential fats your body needs and can’t produce on its own
- Provides energy
The following image from the Harvard School of Public Health is a helpful illustration of the protective effect consuming calories from healthy sources can have on a 15-year old’s life. Eating a higher percent of monounsaturated fats in the diet increases length of life and eating a higher percent of polyunsaturated fat increases mortality at a higher rate.
What Fats Should a 15 Year Old Eat?
Put all the tips together and it can seem like a lot to keep track of. For example, a moderately active 15-year old boy needs about 2,400-2,600 calories per day, 25-35% of those should come from fat so he should eat 600-910 calories per day from fat, which is equal to 67-101 grams of healthy fat each day. How do you keep track of all of that?
The most important thing is to focus on healthy swaps. Decrease processed foods and snack foods, eat more lean meats, and swap out saturated cooking fats for unsaturated plant oils.
Think of fats you could decrease and increase in your diet. Here is a list for types and amounts of fat:
- 1 Tablespoon butter= 12 grams fat
- 1 Tablespoon margarine= 11 grams fat
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil= 14 grams fat
- ¼ cup of nuts= about 18 grams (depending on the type)
- ¼ cup of sunflower seeds= 18 grams
- ½ medium avocado= 15 grams
- 3 oz salmon= 11 grams
- 1 oz (18 chips) potato chips= 10 grams (saturated fat)
- 1 cup lowfat milk= 2 grams
- 1 slice pepperoni pizza= about 10 grams (saturated fat)
- 1 glazed doughnut= 11 grams (saturated fat)
- 1 medium fast food french fries= 17 grams (saturated fat)
- 1 chocolate chip cookie= about 5 grams (saturated fat)
The Bottom Line
Understanding how much fat your 15-year-old needs now is crucial to preparing them for healthy lifelong nutrition skills that can protect them from chronic disease and malnutrition later in life. Getting your teen the healthy dietary fat they need can prime them for better nutritional and lifestyle habits in young adulthood and beyond.
Overall Tips from the Fueling Teens Dietitian
What Fats Should Teenagers Be Eating? Most teenagers have a high amount of fat in their diet coming from unhealthy fat. Improving your fat choices isn’t as hard as it seems.
Here are my top tips for 15-year olds hoping to improve fat intake:
- Teenagers should eat 1/2 of an avocado a few days per week
- Add nuts and seeds to your smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, and trail mix (flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts are easy and versatile)
- Eat fatty fish 2 or more times per week
- Grab tuna or salmon pouches for a quick on-the-go snack (plus it’s an awesome source of healthy protein!)
- Check in with your doctor or dietitian before taking fish oil supplements
How Many Grams of Fat Should a 15 Year Old Boy Eat? Moderately active 15 year old boys need about 2,400-2,600 calories and about 67 to 101 grams of fat per day. Fat helps with teenage brain development, heart health, energy, organ health and cushioning, and more.
How Many Grams of fat Should a 15 Year Old Girl Eat? 15 Year old girls need about 55 to 75 grams of fat each day. Most of those grams should come from unsaturated fat sources such as plant oils, fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
How Many Calories Should a 15 Year Old Girl Eat? a Moderately active 15 year old girl needs about 2,000 calories per day depending on several factors including gender, height/weight, activity level, age, and others. 15-year old girls who exercise more than 30-40 minutes per day need more calories at 2,400 calories per day.
What are the Best Fats for Teenagers? Teenagers should be getting healthy fat each day from nuts, seeds, fatty fish, plant oils, or avocados. Add seeds and nuts to oatmeal and smoothies, grab a handful of trail mix, bring a pouch or can of salmon for a snack, add nut butter on your toast or crackers, and add avocado slices to wraps, pasta, salads, and sandwiches for a healthy diet.
Should Teenagers Take Fish Oil Supplements? For teenagers who don’t like fish, a fish oil supplement might be a beneficial way to get more omega-3 fatty acids. Check with a doctor or dietitian before taking a supplement. You can also get omega 3 fatty acids by adding nuts and seeds to your diet such as flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts.
Related Posts for 15-Year Olds
- What is the Best Diet Plan for a 15 Year-Old?
- How Many Calories Should 15 and 16 Year-Olds Eat?
- How Many Carbs Does a 15 Year-Old Teen Need?
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Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Fats: Total Fat and Fatty Acids. Institutes of Medicine of the National Academies. 2005. Accessed at https://www.nap.edu/read/10490/chapter/10
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The Nutrition Source Staff. Fats and Cholesterol. Harvard School of Public Health. 2020. Accessed at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/
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