Young People covers a whole range of people from age 13-18, who are growing at different rates and times, involved in various levels of activity and who are of different heights and weights. This affects the types and amounts of nutrients you will need for a healthy body. Your lifestyle might be changing as well – a different school, different family circumstances, leaving home, starting work or tertiary education, which can affect the foods you eat. For more in-depth knowledge on the recommended number of servings visit Health Ed’s Healthy Eating for Young People’s guide.
Your body is building its skeleton while you’re a teenager. To make it as strong as possible, you need to eat foods rich in calcium.
Teenage girls in particular need to include iron-rich foods in their diet as they need more iron from food to replace what’s lost during their periods. If not, low levels of iron in the blood can leave you looking pale and feeling tired and lethargic.
Thinking of becoming a vegetarian, or you have not been eating meat for a while?
Variety is the key to a healthy vegetarian diet. Eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables, high fibre grain foods, dairy or calcium-enriched soy foods and eggs, dried beans, lentils, nuts and seeds each day.
The most important nutrients to be aware of with a vegetarian diet are calcium, iron and vitamin B12. Eat foods containing vitamin C (kiwifruit, capsicum, orange juice) with your meals so your body can best absorb the iron in foods. If you are eating eggs and dairy products, you will most likely be meeting your calcium and vitamin B12 needs.
Vegans need to consider eating foods such as cereals, soy or other plant-based milks to that have been fortified with B12 (that is, B12 has been added to the food). You should talk to a doctor or dietitian about vitamin B12 supplements. For more information read our vegetarian webpage.
Drink water throughout the day to quench your thirst and make it easier to concentrate on your studies or while enjoying activities. Squeeze a dash of lemon juice or add a splash of fruit juice to water for a bit of extra flavour.
Soft drinks and energy drinks are full of sugar (and kilojoules/calories) and are best kept for special occasions, not every day, and choose the small drink container size.
Physical activity helps the heart, lungs and muscles work the best they can. You need to do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. That means anything from a brisk walk to where you ‘huff and puff’ – running, swimming, netball, soccer. Be active in as many ways as possible – sport, dancing, playing, running, cycling, whatever you enjoy. Try to spend less than two hours a day in front of the television, computer or playing game consoles. You could get involved in a sports team and try walking or biking when heading to and from the shops, school or work.
Try to have 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day. You can easily fit them into every meal or have them as a snack. Here are some meal ideas which contain all the important nutrients, and much more.
As you are growing, you may also need snacks for an energy boost or to combat hunger between meals. Choose ones which are going to give you what you need.
‘DIY’ in the kitchen by learning to cook. This will help you to eat better, save money, and will even make you more popular with your family or flatmates!
Start with packing your own lunch each day, then move on to cooking dinner. Check out these websites for some easy recipe ideas:
If you want to talk to someone about what you are eating – speak to a school or a dietitian or registered nutritionist or someone who can suggest or refer you to one e.g., a counsellor or nurse, your doctor.
Last reviewed: 20/06/2022
Last modified: August 16, 2023