Nutrition and Diet tips for girls during puberty

Nutrition and Diet tips for girls during puberty

According to WHO, individuals between 10 -19 years are considered adolescents and the transition period is called adolescence.

During this phase - physical, emotional and mental changes occur due to the influence of hormones.

Nutrition and diet requirements are the prime factors affecting pubertal development. On the other hand, puberty triggers a growth spurt with an increase in height and weight. It also raises the demand for nutritional needs of both macro and micronutrients.

Therefore, the nutritional deficiencies at this stage are crucial for girls as they may cause eating disorders, obesity, anemia and results in malnutrition. The rapid physical changes of puberty have a direct influence on nutritional needs. 

Nutritional Needs:

Following are the essential nutrients for girls during puberty;

1. Proteins:

Protein needs represent 11-12 per cent of energy intake and varies from 33-43g/d depending on the weight for the teen girls especially in puberty.

  • Essential for the growth and repair of muscles and tissues.
  • For the production of enzymes and hormones.

Balanced meals with enough protein will help keep their energy levels up throughout the day. The protein requirement is met by eating a variety of high protein foods regularly with their meals.

Sources: Fish, lentils, beans, chicken, tofu, meat, nuts, seeds, eggs, unsweetened milk and milk products. Protein-rich foods from animal sources have zinc and vitamin B12 too.

2. Iron:

As per the RDA guidelines 2020, the iron needs for girls range from 28-30mg/d. Currently, many teens consume monotonous and unbalanced diets which may limit mineral intake and bioavailability of the nutrients.

Thus, leading to iron deficiency and anemia.

  • During puberty girls need more iron-rich sources to replace menstrual loss.
  • Iron fuels your child’s muscle growth and increases blood volume.

Iron from meat sources (known as haem iron) in the liver and red meat, is more readily absorbed compared with iron found in vegetarian sources (known as non-haem iron), such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and dried fruits.

Vitamin C helps the body to absorb non-haem iron. Therefore, intake of vitamin C-rich foods (lemon, oranges, amla) at mealtimes can help the absorption of iron from vegetarian sources.

Sources:  Spinach, methi, pumpkin seeds, dates, rice flakes, horse gram, figs, raisins and meat.

3. Calcium:

The calcium requirement for teen girls ranges from 850-1000mg/day.  Teens need enough calcium in this phase to build strong bones and fight bone loss later in life.

  • To strengthen the bones
  • To prevent demineralisation of bones

Girls whose diets are deficient in calcium are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, which increases the risk of fractures from weakened bones.

Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. Exposure to sunlight, mushrooms, egg yolk help to obtain this vitamin.

Sources: Milk, curd, cheese, milk products, yoghurt (dairy foods), almond & soy milk, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale) and figs.

4. Zinc:

Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism that ultimately influence growth and maturation. Therefore, the RDA for zinc is highest for teen girls ranging from 8.5-12.8mg/day.

  • Necessary for growth and maturation in girls, as deficiency results in growth retardation
  • To increase bone density and promote bone mineralisation during puberty

Sources:  Include whole grain cereals, milk products, fortified breakfast cereals, poultry, red meat, chickpeas, cashews and almonds.

5. Vitamin A:

This vitamin strengthens the uterus during a girl's puberty years which makes it an essential nutrient. Therefore, the RDA for Vitamin A varies from 790-890mg/day for the girls.

  • For healthy skin and optimum growth
  • It also helps vision and tissue repair

Sources: Tomatoes, green vegetables, carrots, papaya, oranges and milk.

Dietary Guidelines:

  1. Regular physical activity must be included, along with healthy meal plans.
  2. Practice including all food groups by providing scheduled meal times with social interaction and family dining.
  • Involve girls in the selection and preparation of foods and teach them to make healthy choices.
  1. Teens in general reported (FSSAI) dietary intakes of the following nutrients - calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fibre as deficient. Plan the meals with food sources rich in these micronutrients.
  2. Parents must teach their children to restrict electronic gadgets, television watching, and computer use to less than 2 hours daily and replace sedentary activities.
  3. Minimise the availability of junk/processed/unhealthy foods and replace them with fruits, roasted nuts, sandwiches (veggies/sprouts/panner) and sufficient hydration (water, tender coconut water, buttermilk).
  • Restrict empty calorie foods such as carbonated beverages.
  • A healthy diet is based on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods from each of the main food groups. This means getting a good balance of lean proteins, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

Pubertal Glimpse!

The onset of puberty is a natural phenomenon; girls begin puberty at an earlier age compared to past decades due to excessive eating of processed, high-fat and junk foods. Nutritional status during infancy, childhood and the Peripubertal period has a significant effect on pubertal development.

Always consult a medical professional (doctor/dietitian) for adolescent health care requirements.



Indu Vaishnavi R, Dietician

Indu Vaishnavi is a Consultant Dietitian (Gold Medalist) with 10+ years of experience as a Corporate Nutritionist and Certified Food Safety Auditor. She is also counselling clients for lifestyle disorders through her online platform. She has expertise in conducting nutrition presentations, health talks and webinars. Apart from being a Nutritionist, she has a keen interest in painting, creative craftworks and exploring nutritious recipes. 

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