As my son hit his adolescent years, it became quite the challenge to keep him satiated. When he was younger, coaxing him into taking a few more bites of food was a daily struggle. Now that he’s 15 and experiencing a growth spurt, things have changed drastically. Fueling his sudden increase in appetite appropriately has led me to explore numerous tips for fueling your teen’s growth spurt.
Today, he not only cleans his plate but also tops it off with a spoonful of protein-rich peanut butter and yogurt, only to rummage for a snack just an hour later.
Teens and kids really do get hungry when they hit a growth spurt, and it may catch you by surprise. That’s okay because we’ll take care of you.
When Do Teens Grow Quickly?
Jill Castle, a pediatric dietitian, and adviser to Parents, says that this varies a lot from child to child. Between 9 and 16 years old for boys and between 8 and 15 years old for girls.
“These ranges account for people who bloom early or late,” says Castle. The growth spurt’s most powerful part lasts about three years, from 12 to 15 for boys and 10 to 13 for girls. A sudden increase in hunger isn’t the only sign. There are also bigger feet, more hair on the body, and mood swings.
It’s normal for kids to grow quickly in the teen years, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking when your child suddenly gets bigger than you. Teens will still grow until puberty is over. Males will hit their adult height at about 16 years old, while females will do so at about 14 or 15 years old. That doesn’t mean, though, that your kids are done growing. Their brains and muscles will continue to grow and develop, among other things.
During A Growth Spurt, What Nutrients Do Teenagers Need?
Kids need the energy to fuel all the growing and changing that’s going on in their bodies. Yes, that means there’s room in the diet for some treats, but calories are very important. Castle says that protein is very important because it is the building block of all new cells and organs.
“Girls need more iron during a growth spurt, not only because they are growing, but also because they lose iron when they have their periods,” she says. At age 9, your child’s daily calcium needs go from 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg, which is the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk or yogurt.
What Are the Best Foods to Eat When You’re Growing Quickly?
Castle says that you should choose real food over shakes and protein drinks whenever you can. “Teens are still figuring out what they like to eat, and whole foods always come with other nutrients,” says Castle. She also likes to see teens eat a range of animal and plant sources of protein, like eggs, beef, beans, and quinoa. Protein, calcium, and vitamin D are found in fortified cow and plant-based milk. “If teenage boys or girls don’t eat enough, I often tell them to drink 2% or whole milk to get more calories,” she says. Fruits and veggies also have the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your teen needs.
One way to ensure your teen gets enough protein is to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with easy-to-grab foods high in nutrients. Some things you might want to keep on hand are:
- Granola bars with dried fruit and nuts.
- Milk, even chocolate milk, in boxes.
- Oranges, apples, and pears.
- Sticks of cheese.
- Beef jerky.
- Dinner or lunch leftovers.
- A water bottle they can use again and again to stay refreshed.
Keeping your teen involved in talks about planning meals and going shopping is a great way to teach them how to make good food choices. Give your kid a spatula and let them help you cook a couple of meals with nutritious, whole ingredients to get them interested in the kitchen.
What If You’re Worried About Your Child’s Growth?
Your child’s doctor can tell you if their growth is on track, but until then, don’t compare them to their peers. Don’t guess how big (or small) your child will be; let that affect how you feed them. Castle says that some parents worry when their child gains weight (especially around the middle) but doesn’t grow taller.
“They might cut back on calories, carbs, or portions because they don’t know that weight changes are normal for most kids,” Castle said. If some parents think their child isn’t getting tall enough, they may look for special shakes or supplements. “Most children who grow slowly are late bloomers whose growth hormones just need more time to start working,” says Castle.