Adolescent girls require a healthy diet
Good nutritional diet is essential for adolescent girs. Deficienty in nutrition will have a severe effect on their health in future and it may also affect the health of their progeny. Slow physical growth and delayed sexual maturation are the results of deficiency in nutrition. The rapid physical growth during adolescence is comparable to the first year of life and this requires additional energy and nutrients. Optimum growth potential comes only from good nutrition.
Good nutrition also prepares the adolescent girls for pregnancy and lactation in future. Adolescent girls experience the following negative effects due to under-nutrition:
1. Retarded ability to learn and sluggishness at work.
2. When they beget children at a later stage, the health of the children may get affected.
3. Delayed sexual maturation.
4. Bone and teeth are affected due to insufficient calcium intake.
5. Under-nutrition during adolescent years affects the reproductive life of the woman.
Energy needs of adolescent girls: Adolescent girls need 2000 calories per day and this is much more than what they required during their childhood days. Factors influencing energy needs of these girls are their activity level, metabolic rate and the growth needs of the pubertal period. Hence adolescent girls must be well informed of their nutrition requirements and must choose foods rich in lean protein and low fat and also fibre-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It is recommended that 25% of the total energy must come from fat, out of which, 10% from saturated fat. Eating a low-fat diet helps in preventing heart disease, breast and colon cancer. Therefore skim milk and lean meat are better.
Protein needs: Additional lean body mass is required to be developed during adolescent years and hence protein intake must be sufficient enough for maintaining the existing lean body mass and also for developing additional lean body mass. The requirement has been calculated as 45 to 60 grams every day. Dairy products, beef, chicken, eggs, pork, vegetable sources like tofu, soy products, beans, nuts, etc. supply this requirement. If this required protein is not available to adolescent girls, that will cause belated sexual maturation and also affect development of lean body mass.
Calcium requirements: Studies have shown that girls attain 45% of peak bone mass and skeletal growth during their adolescent years, for which calcium is required. Calcium helps in development of dense bone mass and also reduces risks of fracture and osteoporosis. Milk, cheese, ice cream and frozen yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, breakfast bars, bread and calcium-fortified cereals supply the 1,200 milligrams of calcium required during adolescent years.
Iron requirements for adolescent girls: Iron transports oxygen to the entire body. If there is a deficiency in iron, it will lead to anaemia, fatigue, dizziness and weakness. As the blood volume and muscle mass increase rapidly during adolescent period, girls require more of iron. Beef, chicken, beans, peanuts, legumes, spinach, etc. can supply the required daily dose of 12 to 15 milligrams of iron.
Zinc: Growth and sexual maturation require zinc to the extent of 9 mg. per day and it can be got from red meat, shellfish and whole grains.
Folate requirements during adolescence: Folate helps in protein synthesis and plays a major role in DNA and RNA. Hence adolescent girls require more folate during puberty and this can be got from orange juice, bread, milk, dried beans and lentils.
Adolescents should never skip breakfast. About one-third of the day's nutritional supply should come from breakfast. Skipping breakfast may lead to under-nutrition which will affect the future health of adolescent girls.
Also read "Simple tips for weight loss" by the same author.