PREGNANCY & CHILDHOOD

Preparing for Your Adolescent's Teenage Growth Spurt

Preparing for Your Adolescents Teenage Growth Spurt

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Here's how to spot the signs of an impending growth spurt in your teen.

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AUG. 31, 2021    4 MIN. READ
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Adolescence, or the teenage years, is usually a time of major growth and development. Your child may experience a drastic change in height, accompanied by puberty milestones. These adjustments can come on quick and sometimes be surprising — for both your child and you — but the best way to mitigate any confusion is to educate your child on the changes to come.

Parents can play a large role in helping children navigate the adolescent years and become young adults. Knowing the signs of a teenage growth spurt is the first step in helping your child feel safe and supported during this time of change. 

Here's what to be aware of and the nutritional needs they'll have during this period.

Adolescent Growth and Development

Growth spurts and changes due to puberty are common during adolescence, but periods of growth are usually erratic. Your child may grow several inches in several months, followed by a period of slow growth. Each child is different, so it can be hard to predict when they may experience a growth spurt.

The same goes for puberty and signs of maturation. Girls and boys evolve at different ages.

The beginning of menstruation is a significant adolescent milestone for many young women. This can occur around 12 years of age, although each child is different. Growth spurts for girls usually occur between the ages of 11 and 16.

Growth spurts for boys can range between the ages of 13 and 18, but sometimes final height is not reached until their early 20s.

Nutrition During an Adolescent's Growth Spurt

It may come as no surprise that growth spurts are accompanied by an increase in appetite and higher nutrient requirements. Your child is growing, and their first inclination may be to reach for junk food, but it's important to eat a well-balanced diet throughout the adolescent years.

Specifically, adolescents need protein for muscle growth and key nutrients for bone building like calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K. It's also crucial that teenagers take in enough calories to match their nutrient needs, especially if they happen to play sports.

Calorie requirements for adolescent males and females vary widely from 1600 to 3000 calories per day, depending on their activity levels. Dietary recommendations suggest that 50%  or more of total daily calories should come from carbohydrates, with a limited amount of added sugars.

Protein requirements vary between 10 and 30% of their daily calories. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 46 grams for teenage girls and 52 grams for teenage boys per day. Although teens typically get more than enough fat in their diet via fast food choices or unhealthy snacks, it’s important to reinforce healthy swaps for fat like avocado, nuts, nut butters, and whole eggs because fat is important for the absorption of some essential nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. .

During this time of significant growth and high nutrient needs, it's important for your teen to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of lean protein, like poultry, eggs, fish, soy, beans and legumes, as well as calcium and vitamin D, like dairy, leafy greens and fatty fish like salmon.

Growth spurts are fueled by a delicate interplay of hormones, genetics, and nutrition. While we can’t control genetics and hormones, we can influence nutrition. It's important to make sure that your child's intake of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals supports healthy growth.

How Protein Fuels Development

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From infancy through adolescence, kids need protein to support rapid growth, development and immune health. Yet, research shows that many kids' protein needs go unmet. In fact, as many as one in seven school-aged children in the U.S. fall short of their recommended daily protein targets.1

Here's how to tell if your child is getting enough protein, how to easily add more to their diet, and why this nutrient is so essential for their physical growth and immune health. 

Protein Deficiency in Kids | Abbott Nutrition

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Believe it or not, one in seven school-aged kids in the U.S. don't get enough protein daily.1  That number is not too shocking when you learn that 30 percent of their total daily calories come from low-nutrient snacks, desserts and candy.2

If your child is not getting enough protein, it can lead to more serious side effects down the road. As a matter of fact, this essential macronutrient is so important for kids that it affects every single part of the body.

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