Adolescents (12 to 18 years old)

Teenagers playing tennis

Like children, adolescents are growing rapidly.

This is commonly referred to as the growth spurt.

This rapid development means that adolescents have complex dietary needs.


Unsaturated fat should be taken rather than saturated fat, to carry out its functions and provide energy.

Care should be taken to monitor fat intake in order to reduce the risk of obesity.


Starchy (complex) carbohydrates should be eaten to meet energy requirements. Many adolescents are very active and play sport, so their energy requirements will be very high.

Fibre is also important. Adolescents should eat wholegrain varieties of carbohydrate in order to achieve the recommended fibre intake of 25g per day.

This will help to keep their gut healthy, prevent constipation and reduce the risk of bowel related disorders such as cancer.


Protein is required to carry out the following functions:

  • Growth – protein is needed during the growth spurt (in general, males will need higher amounts than females due to their larger muscle mass)
  • Repair and maintenance of body cells and tissues (as adolescents are a very active age group)
  • Energy – protein can be used as a secondary source of energy to meet the high demands during this stage of life

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is required to help the absorption of iron.


Iron is important during adolescence, in particular for girls who are losing blood through menstruation.

B group vitamins

Vitamins B1 and B12 are required to help release energy from food. This is important due to the high energy demands of adolescents.

Folate is also a B group vitamin, and is required for normal cell division.

It is common for adolescents to experiment with a vegetarian diet, which means they may be at risk of becoming deficient in B12