What Should a Teenage Girl Eat in a Day? Recommendations From a Dietitian


Teenage girls are growing, learning, developing, changing so much and becoming more independent and responsible. Teen females need a lot of nutrients and energy, especially during puberty, growth spurts, and for physical activity and teen athletes. It would be unwise to fuel their bodies with unhealthy choices like sugary soda, chips, pizza, and snack foods. Nutritious foods can be just as delicious, easy, and a lot more energizing.

Teenage girls should focus their food choices on evenly spaced meals and snacks during the day, and develop healthy habits. Teen females should eat on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, meat and beans, and lowfat dairy products each day, and limit processed and packaged snack foods and fast foods.

Need some more tips and ideas for what to eat and how much? Get the best tips from a registered dietitian nutritionist. Keep reading below and also check out my list of The 10 Best and 10 Worst Foods for Teenagers to Eat.

What Does a Teenage Girl Need in Her Diet?

The best way to make sure a teen girl is getting all the nutrients and the right foods she needs in her diet is to focus on variety and balance between all the different food groups. Each food group provides different vitamins and minerals that are important for normal growth and function. Here’s an example of how much and what to eat from each food group:

  • Dairy– Eat 3 servings per day. One serving equals 1 cup of milk/yogurt, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese, or 2 cups cottage cheese etc.
  • Grains– Eat 6 servings per day. One serving equals 1 slice bread, 1/2 cup cooked grains (oatmeal, rice, pasta), 5-7 crackers, 3 cups popcorn, or 1 cup breakfast cereal. Choose mostly whole wheat grains instead of white.
  • Fruits– Eat 1 1/2 cups per day. 1 medium fruit is equal to about 1 cup. 1/2 cup of dried fruit and 1 cup 100% juice are also equal to a 1 cup serving.
  • Vegetables– Eat 2 1/2 cups per day. 1 cup of whole, sliced, etc. 2 cups of lettuce/leafy greens or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables is equal to a 1 cup serving size.
  • Protein Foods – Eat about 5-6 servings per day. A serving is 1 ounce of cooked meat/poultry/seafood/lunchmeat, 1 egg, 1/2 ounce of nuts/seeds, 1 Tablespoon nut butter, 1/4 cup cooked beans/lentils/tofu, or 2 Tablespoons of hummus.

Focusing meals on vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and whole grains is a great way to stay healthy and get a balance of food for a healthy body.

How Much Should A Teenage Girl Eat in a Day?

Teenage females should eat enough in the day to fuel their body for all their daily activities including thinking, moving, breathing, chores, focusing in school, sports practice, walking to class, even growing, etc.

There’s a lot going on and adolescent girls need a lot of calories to supply the right amount of energy each day. Most moderately active teenage girls need around 2,000 calories per day of food to provide the right amount of fuel for their body functions, growth, and movement. Check out the chart for more specific recommendations:

Female Calorie Recommendations:

AgeNot ActiveModerately ActiveActive
131,6002,0002,200
14-18
1,800
2,000
2,400
192,0002,2002,400
From Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020

Activity Levels:

  • Not Active – Minimum activity, just daily movements (walking, stairs, chores, etc.).
  • Moderately Active – Standard daily activities plus 30-40 minutes of physical activity per day.
  • Active – Standard daily activities plus 40 or more minutes of activity per day.

Teenage girls usually need about 3 meals per day and at least 1 snack each day. Many teenagers need 1-3 snacks per day to help them not get too hungry between meals, fuel workouts and sports, and fit in important nutrients and foods for their daily requirements.

An after-school snack is really common and useful for most teenagers because most eat lunch around 11 or 12 in the afternoon and dinner is around 6. Teenagers shouldn’t go more than 4 hours without eating, so a snack is needed between this time period to give an extra boost of energy as teens work on homework, sports practice, after school jobs, chores, clubs, social activities, etc.

For teenage females that need 2,000 calories per day, in order to meet energy needs, each meal should equal about 500-600 calories, and each snack about 100-300 calories.

A day’s worth of food might look something like this:

Breakfast– 500 calories

  • 1/2 cup serving of fruit
  • 2 servings of grains
  • 1 ounce protein foods
  • 1 cup serving of dairy

Snack– 200 calories

  • 1/2 cup serving of vegetables
  • 1 serving of grains

Lunch– 500 calories

  • 2 servings of grains
  • 1/2 cup serving of fruit
  • 1 cup serving of vegetables
  • 1 ounce serving of protein foods

Snack– 300 calories

  • 1 cup serving of dairy
  • 1/2 cup serving of fruit

Dinner– 500 calories

  • 1 cup serving of dairy
  • 2 servings of grains
  • 1 cup serving of vegetables
  • 3 ounce serving of protein foods

Is it Normal for a Teenage Girl to Eat a Lot?

Does it seem like your teenager eats and eats nonstop when they get home from school then still has room for dinner? It can be hard to keep a teenager fed! But remember they need a lot of energy, just think of everything their body needs to do in a day.

It takes a lot of work for an adolescent’s body to fuel all that is going on- breathing, muscle movements, thinking and focusing in school, talking and socializing, running, digesting food, pumping blood, growing bones and muscles, developing organs, hormone changes, etc. Teenagers need a lot more calories and nutrients than many adults during this period of intense growth and development.

It can be totally normal for teenage females to eat a lot, especially during growth spurts and for teen athletes. As a parent, it’s important not to make comments on the amount of food intake or weight change as this is a time when many teenagers develop disordered eating habits.

Instead, set an example and a schedule for healthy meals and snacks and make sure your teenager is focusing all their snacking/grazing on healthy foods. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with ready-to-eat and easy-to-grab fruits and vegetables, hummus, nuts, whole grain crackers, lowfat yogurt, cheese, and other healthy and nutritious snacks.

Limit packaged and highly processed food in your house when possible. If your teen is going through a period of growth and eats a lot, they need to fuel up on foods with a lot of nutrition!

However, some teenagers are less active, develop unhealthy eating habits, and snack constantly on less nutritious foods that cause them to gain unwanted weight. If you are worried about your teenager’s weight and eating habits, check in with a registered dietitian nutritionist and your child’s pediatrician. A medical expert can track weight trends and suggest any needed adjustments.

What is a Healthy Diet for a 13 Year-Old Female?

The best healthy diet for a 13 year-old female is to focus on getting the right amount of energy from the right foods and limit foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition. Here are some tips:

  • 13 year-old girls need around 2,000 calories per day with 225-325 grams of carbs, 56-78 grams of fat, and 50-150 grams of protein.
  • Eat 3 meals per day and about 1-3 snacks. Don’t go more than 4 hours without eating something nutritious. Plan ahead for snacks to not have to rely on vending machines and fast food when away from home.
  • Get a balance of foods at meals and snacks. Choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy protein foods, lowfat dairy products or dairy alternatives, and healthy fats.
  • Limit consumption of processed snack foods and foods with a lot of saturated fat, sodium, and/or sugar.
  • Get enough sleep, control stress, drink plenty of water, and stay active.

See also:

Best Foods for a Teenage Girl

Some of the best foods for teenagers are high in nutrients that support growth and development during the adolescent years. Here are some examples:

  • Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat breads/pasta/crackers.
  • Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel.
  • Avocados
  • Colorful vegetables like spinach, purple cabbage, carrots, bell peppers.
  • A variety of fruits such as bananas, berries, watermelon, grapefruit.
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Eggs
  • Dairy

For more healthy foods for teenage girls, check out my post: The Best and Worst Foods for a Teenager to Eat

How Can Teenage Girls Lose Weight Fast?

“Fast” weight loss is not smart weight loss because it won’t last. Why try to starve yourself on a restricted diet for a few days to lose 5 pounds that you’ll gain back quickly?

The best thing you can do to lose weight is to develop healthy habits that will last your whole life! If you always have a healthy relationship with food (starting now), you won’t have to worry about dieting for the rest of your life.

Learn to listen to your hunger cues and fill up on nutritious, whole foods at meals and snacks. With a little planning ahead, you can limit unhealthy packaged snacks and find foods you enjoy that are filling and good-for-you.

Summary

There are no “off-limits” or “bad” foods for teenage girls, all foods can fit in moderation in a healthy diet. A teen girl should mainly focus meals and snacks on energizing, nutritious foods to help her body appropriately grow and develop through this critical period. Save the treats and snack foods for special occasions.

Related Questions:

Is the Keto Diet Safe for a Teenage Girl? The Keto diet allows very little carbohydrates, which teenagers need to fuel their bodies for growth and daily activities. It can cause fatigue, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloating, cramps, bowel problems, and more unpleasant side effects. Any restrictive diets are not safe for growing teenagers because they can cause nutrient deficiencies and growth problems.

What is a Healthy Diet for a Teenage Girl? The best eating plan for a teen girl is to focus on developing healthy eating habits instead of restricting food and nutrients. Eat smarter, not necessarily less! Eat a balance of whole and nutritious foods and focus meals on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, and lowfat dairy.

Related Posts:

EBooks from Fueling Teens

Need more help with your diet this season? Get help from a registered dietitian nutritionist, check out my newest eBook: Nutrition Game Plan for Teenage Athletes. Includes 28-day meal plan, snack list, meal schedule, supplement tips, and so much more for your best season yet!

More Meal Plans Available From Fueling Teens:

References:

Choosemyplate.gov

Written by Katherine Harmer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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