Understanding what types of food and how much food to give your body is so important! At 14-years old, your body needs the right nutrients in order to grow and develop properly. This is also an essential time for you to connect with your body and learn how to eat mindfully. Developing a good relationship with food and your body will help you continue to be healthy throughout your entire life!
14-year olds should eat a balanced diet, with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats, and protein. They should aim to eat regularly throughout the day and eat a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat each time they eat.
Keep reading for more information on how many calories a 14-year old should be eating, what foods to limit, and meal and snack ideas.
How Many Calories Should a 14-Year Old Eat in a Day?
Calories are the energy that you consume from food to power your entire body. You need calories even if you are not moving around much during the day. It takes a lot of energy to keep you alive! When you are physically active, your body needs even more energy from the food you eat.
The charts below from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 give an estimate for how many calories your body requires based on your age, gender, and physical activity level.
Remember that these are just estimates. The best way of determining how many calories your body needs is to eat mindfully and be in tune with what your body is telling you.
Since your activity level and energy needs are different day-to-day, you must learn to trust your body to tell you how many calories it needs!
How Much Should a 14-Year Old Eat in a Day?
Once you know about how many calories you should be eating each day, you might wonder how much of each food group you should be getting. The US Department of Agriculture has created a website called My Plate where you can see more information about each of the food groups and how much you should be getting of each based on your age and gender.
Fruits Most 14-year olds need between 1 ½ – 2 ½ cups of fruit every day. A 1 cup serving could be 1 cup of whole fruit, 1 cup of 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit. Whole fruit in its natural form has fiber which is beneficial for digestion. Try to focus mostly on getting whole fruits!
Vegetables Aim to get 2 ½ – 4 servings of vegetables per day. Things that count as a serving are: 1 cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of vegetable juice, and 2 cups of leafy salad greens. Try to get a variety of vegetables in your diet. They each have a different nutrient profile that can benefit the body!
Grains Most 14-year olds need 6-10 servings of grains per day. Half of your total grains for the day should be whole grains. Things that count as 1 serving: 1 cup of dry cereal, ½ cup cooked pasta, ½ cup cooked rice, ½ cup cooked cereal, 1 slice of bread.
Protein Between 5-7 servings of protein per day will likely be sufficient for a 14-year old. 1 serving of protein could be: 1 egg, 1 tbsp of nut butter, 1 ounce of meat, fish, or poultry, ¼ cup of cooked beans, or ½ ounce of seeds or nuts. Aim to get both plant and animal sources of protein.
Dairy 14-year olds need 3 servings of dairy each day. Things that are considered 1 serving of dairy are: 1 cup of milk, soy milk, or yogurt, or 1 ½ ounces of cheese. Dairy products contain vitamins and minerals essential to bone growth. Choose mostly lower-fat dairy options to decrease intake of saturated fat.
Oils Around 20-35% of your total calories should be coming from fat. The majority of that fat should be from oils, which are healthy sources of unsaturated fatty acids. Oils are also naturally found in nuts, avocados, seeds, fish, and some other foods. Since oils are also very high in calories, still use them in moderation.
What Should a 14-Year Old Eat in a Day?
Get a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat every time you eat. Good sources of carbohydrates are grains and starches, some dairy products, and fruit. Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, nut butters, dairy products and some legumes.
Fat is found in many of the same foods as protein. Avocado and oils are other good sources of fat.
Below are some meal ideas that provide a balance of the three macronutrients. This is not a complete list of all the foods you can eat, but it gives a few examples to provide ideas!
- Scrambled eggs, toast, strawberries
- Smoothie with greek yogurt, fruit, flax seeds, spinach, lime juice, and water
- Yogurt parfait with greek yogurt, granola, and berries
- Cold cereal with a hardboiled egg
- Oatmeal with nuts, berries, and milk
- Avocado toast topped with a fried egg and pineapple on the side
- Sandwich with ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, with a banana and potato chips
- Quesadilla with chicken and cheese, with salsa, lettuce, and sour cream and an apple
- Salad with chicken, corn, black beans, cucumbers, carrots, ranch dressing, and pineapple on the side
- Crackers, cheese, ham, celery and ranch, grapes, and a cookie
- Cottage cheese, pretzels, carrots with hummus, fruit smoothie
- Chicken wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, and caesar dressing with a plum and brownie
- Baked fish with rice and steamed broccoli
- Spaghetti and meatballs with asparagus
- Pizza with a side salad
- Rice bowl with shrimp, salsa, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, avocado, and black beans
- Burritos with pulled pork, cheese, black beans, enchilada sauce with a side of lettuce and tomato
Should a 14-Year Old Eat Snacks?
Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet. Busy teenagers often have meals that are too spread out. Eating a healthy, balanced snack between meals can keep you feeling energized and satisfied throughout the entire day.
Snacks usually should contain two food groups, in order to get a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Below are a few examples of healthy snack options!
- Raspberries and a cheese stick
- Chips with salsa and guacamole
- Yogurt with granola and fruit
- Bagel with cream cheese
- Carrots and hummus
- Popcorn and nuts
- Pretzels with peanut butter
- Smoothie with peanut butter, banana, and milk
Important Nutrients at 14-Years Old
There are no “superfoods” for 14-year olds. The best diet is one that gets a variety of foods from all food groups. This will ensure that your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs!
A few nutrients that are particularly important for 14-year olds are:
- Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Fruit, grains, and dairy are good sources of carbs.
- Protein is important to help the body repair itself and keep things functioning. Protein can be found in a variety of both plant and animal products.
- Fat is necessary for absorption of certain vitamins. Fat is found in many foods. Focus on foods that have unsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, and oils.
- Calcium for strong teeth and bones. Calcium can be found in most dairy products.
- Vitamin D for bone strength. Milk is often fortified with Vitamin D, but the sun is the best source of vitamin D. Get outside and soak up some UV rays!
- Iron for development of red blood cells. Iron is found in leafy greens, red meats, fortified cereals, peas, and beans.
- Potassium for maintaining appropriate blood pressure. Bananas and potatoes are two great sources of potassium.
- Fiber for maintaining gut health and regular bowel movements. It also helps keep you feeling satisfied. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Foods to Limit for 14-Year Olds
No food is truly “bad,” but there are some foods that are more nutrient dense than others. Most of your calories each day should be coming from those foods that will provide those essential nutrients for your health.
Below is a list of foods that are important for 14-year old’s to limit
- Highly processed foods like chips
- Sugary beverages like soda
- Foods high in added sugar like candy
- Saturated fat which is found in many baked goods and high-fat dairy
- Fast food
- Fried foods like french fries
While these foods can taste really yummy, eat them in moderation. How do they make you feel when you eat them? How do they make your body feel?
Eating smaller amounts of the foods you love can be satisfying and nourishing to the body. If they are eaten more frequently, you might not feel as good as your body will be missing out on other important nutrients it needs.
Instead of focusing on what foods not to eat, work on including more high nutrient food in your diet. Include foods that make you feel energized. Listen to what your body is telling you that it needs. It might actually tell you to eat more vegetables!
What can you add to your diet to get more of the nutrients that your body needs to grow? Health is not about cutting out a whole bunch of foods. Instead, it is more about listening to and respecting your body. Try to figure out which foods help your body function at its very best!
NIH. Take Charge of Your Health: A Guide for Teenagers. Niddk.nih.gov Reviewed December 2016.
US Department of Agriculture. My Plate. Myplate.gov Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.
Fueling Teens is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We also participate in other affiliate programs which compensate us for referring traffic.