Pre-Teen & Teen Diets 

A nutritious diet not only helps children stay physically healthy, but also promotes better academic performance. The USDA has a children’s version of its food pyramid to help you create healthy eating plans for your children. Rather than looking for a single diet to guide you in your meal planning, use several diet concepts to make sure your children get the nutrients they need to grow, reduce their risks for diseases and stay healthy.

Calorie-Based Diet

To create a diet that regulates the amount of calories your child eats, refer to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines recommend calories based on your child’s gender, age and activity level. If your child performs no other physical activity other than the typical movements associated with day-to-day life, he would be considered inactive. If he performs physical activity comparable to walking three to four miles, at a rate of 1.5 to 3 mph, his calorie needs would be at the high end of the scale.

Learn the recommended daily calories for your teen (not an ad)

Balanced Diet

The USDA recommends focusing on whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your diet, with animal products, such as dairy and meats, comprising around 30 percent of their diet or less. The USDA recommends foods in the following order: grains, vegetables, fruit, oils, milk, meat and beans. The Harvard School of Public Health reduces proteins even more, increasing fat consumption, but from healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, fish and nuts. Choose whole grains when buying pastas, breads and cereals.


Serve vegetables from different color groups — don’t emphasize white starches. Fruits are packed with vitamins, but contain sucrose, a natural sugar. Read juice labels to determine how much sugar and artificial sweeteners the drink contains. When serving children meat, choose leaner cuts of beef and turkey and chicken breast. Introduce your kids to game, which is high in protein and lower in saturated fat than beef. Serve fish like tuna and salmon which are low in saturated fat. Teen girls will need more iron and calcium. Teen boys who are competitive athletes may need more protein — check with their coaches.

Grazing Diet

Rather than feeding your child three meals per day, let them snack at least twice each day to keep their metabolisms high. Start with a healthy breakfast. Many cold cereals are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Serve lean ham, a bacon substitute or yogurt for protein. Pack an energy bar, granola or a piece of fruit for a mid-morning snack. Learn what your child’s school serves in the cafeteria and discuss lunch options. This many be the time you have the least control over what they eat, so be prepared to have them get most of their fat during lunch. Try string cheese, nuts or veggies with hummus or peanut butter for an afternoon snack.

Other Healthy Eating Ideas…

Nutritious Snack Foods

Fun Meals Kids Can Make

Low-Fat Meals for Kids

 Healthy Comfort Foods

Healthy Meals for Students

Healthy Ingredients to Substitute 

Vegetarian Menu Ideas

Vegetarian Meals