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Nutrition and your active, female teenager

Published On: Jan 24 2012 01:21:48 PM CST
Updated On: Jul 26 2013 03:25:03 PM CDT
lifeguard at swimming pool

iStock / gchutka

(NewsUSA) - Your teenage athlete might be active and happy -- but unless she's receiving adequate nutrition, she might be setting herself up for health problems later in life.

Eating healthfully can help fuel active teens' performance and growth. That means eating enough food each day and making healthy food choices. However, some research indicates that girls' caloric intake appears low for their activity levels.

Female teenage athletes are encouraged to get 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein and 25 percent from fat. But telling your teen that might not make a difference

-- Most teens' nutrition know-how doesn't affect their diet. Many female athletes are afraid to gain weight, so they undereat despite their high activity levels. Parents and coaches can help active teens by encouraging healthy eating.

The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) offers these tips to keep teenage athletes healthy:

- Pay attention to food choices and serving sizes. Choosing healthy foods in appropriate portions will supply adequate nutrients for teenagers. For example, one healthy food choice for teens is six one-ounce servings of grains every day, like whole-grain cereal.

- Provide protein. Protein repairs body tissue and builds muscles. Teens typically need five and a half one-ounce servings a day. Very active teens might need more. Lean meat, beans, tofu, eggs, veggie burgers and nuts and nut butters all provide protein.

- Pack some iron in your teen's lunch. Iron replenishes the body, so it's especially important for teen girls. Try eating seafood, lean beef, legumes, spinach and fortified cereals and breads.

- Make sure your teen eats healthy fats. A low-fat diet isn't necessarily healthy. Fat is an important nutrient that helps the body grow and develop properly. It also serves as a source of energy, but be aware that some fats are better than others. Instead of saturated and trans fats, aim to provide 25 to 35 percent of her calories in the form of healthy fat. Unsaturated fat can be found in olive, canola, safflower, corn and soybean oils, avocados, salmon, whitefish, trout, tuna and tree nuts, such as almonds and walnuts.