A parent’s guide to supporting your teenager’s health

As children enter their teenage years, emphasis on nutrition can decline – just when awareness should be increased. We all remember hanging out around the kiosk or corner shop getting sweets and crisps after school and not being at all interested in eating ‘healthily,’ but also at the same time, being hungry for long periods.


The British Nutrition Foundation states "Growth and development are rapid during teenage years, and the demand for most nutrients is relatively high."  Teens in fact go through the most intense physical and mental developmental changes of their lifetime.

National statistics show us that many teens do not meet the required levels of nutrients in their daily diets. A large proportion of teenagers (especially girls) have low intakes of some vitamins and minerals (in particular vitamin A, iron, calcium, zinc, and iodine).

It can be a real challenge to get them to eat meals that we have cooked for them and feel quite despairing at times as we just want to look after our kids and make sure they are happy and healthy. There are so many things that go on with a teenager with hormones, skin health, friendship, pressures from school and peers, and supporting them with food and specific nutrients can really help.

How to support your teen 

Here are some of the demands that teenagers specifically need help with and how you can best support them through the ups and downs:

Moods and physical changes

Teenagers’ brains go through specific shifts – making them more emotional, fearful, aggressive, and even depressive. They also find it harder to focus and concentrate. Make sure you include healthy, essential fats in their diet from avocados, oily fish, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and ghee.

Changes in hormones around menstruation for girls can also cause a lot of mood swings. B6 and zinc are necessary for hormone production and mood balance. You can find B6 in meat, fish, seafood and potatoes, and chickpeas. Zinc is found in red meat, seafood, and pumpkin seeds.

The adolescent skeleton goes through some of the most rapid changes in any other life stage, resulting in an increased demand for bone nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin D and K. The demands peak in the teenage years and then level out around 19 years. Teen’s meals should include plenty of mineral-containing foods such as meat, seafood, fish, cheese and organic dairy and ripe and seasonal fruits.


There is no shortage of stress in our daily lives but being well nourished can make a world of difference to how you react to it. Even though the brain stops growing long before adolescence it's still changing. Decision-making eventually shifts to the more logical but for teens. Decision-making is led by those parts associated with emotional responses.

Making sure your teen gets plenty of protein daily is key to avoiding those blood sugar dips which often lead to emotional responses. Teenagers tend to also gravitate towards late nights adding to the stress so nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, and botanicals such as Ashwagandha and Reishi mushrooms can help.

Getting outdoors

Fresh air and natural light are so important for health, however, research conducted by the British Nutrition Society found that British teenagers are inactive, spending more time indoors. Therefore we must focus on natural sunlight in the warmer months and supplementation during autumn and winter.

Adding filters to your teen’s phone and computer that block the blue light that is emitted from these screens is a good idea. Blue light delays the release of melatonin and increases alertness causing teens to be awake later at night.

Focus and concentration

This can be a bit problematic as they get older.  At 14 and 15 years old as they must start to study for exams and that requires them to focus for longer periods of time. Making sure your teen has a good snack that includes protein and plenty of mineral-rich fluids before and during studying should keep the concentration levels up.

The amino acid T-lysine is a great supplement that increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. Research has shown increased cognitive function and better sleep with supplementing with 250mg/day of T-lysine. Iodine is needed for normal growth in teenagers, the normal production of thyroid hormones and thyroid function, cognitive function, and energy. Encourage your teen to eat seafood and fish but also sprinkle seaweed on food etc.


Having a bedtime routine can really support your teen’s sleep as we all know how low we can feel after a restless night. Having a good bedtime routine helps. Turn off devices at least one hour before bedtime. Open the window and get some fresh air in.

Making some hot chocolate with added casein powder can support sleep.  Magnesium and B6 are also great bedtime supplements. This is also an opportunity to ask your teen about their day as often they tend to leave talking to right before they go to sleep.


Iron requirements increase during adolescence to help with growth and muscle development. After menstruation begins, girls need more iron than boys to replace menstrual blood losses and during the period. Make sure she gets lots of iron-rich foods such as red meat, liver, chicken, and eggs - they all contain haem iron which is ideal. Vegetarian sources, i.e., non-haem sources are not as easily absorbed, so focusing on animal protein is better to make sure iron levels are kept up. You could also consider giving your child desiccated liver in capsule form. Planet Paleo is a good UK brand.

Supporting teenagers’ mental health is more important than ever before. Statistics show how 76% of teenagers said that lockdown worsened their mental health and 52% turned to harmful coping mechanisms during the pandemic. Even though the pandemic is behind us, the effects of it still reverberate and we can see it very clearly in our young teens.

You know your child best so you can often spot the early signs of low mood or depression and, even though teenagers can be known for grunting and moodiness, there are other underlying or subtle indications that parents can pick up on when things are not quite right.

Practical solutions for thriving teens

Eat dinner together as a family

It’s an opportunity to talk about things with teens. It might be one of the few occasions in the day where you will see your child as we all know they like to spend time in their rooms.

Limit their screen time

Use an app like Family link so you can oversee how long they spend, what apps they want to download, and where they spend time online. It’s not popular but setting boundaries around screen time is one way of looking after your teen.

Breakfast and dinner

You can’t be in control of what your teen eats when they are out of the house, and they will be eating junk food and sweets. Don’t stress about this, instead, focus on the meals you can actually control. Make sure they have a protein-rich breakfast of eggs, bacon, a smoothie with dairy and fruit and avoid all the boxed cereals and save those for the weekend if they really can’t live without them.

Keep dinner simple and focus on some protein alongside some carbs like rice or pasta with some fruit or vegetables as a side dish. Serving up a platter with raw veg and fruit before the meals is one way of making sure they get lots of minerals and phytonutrients in them.

Got a picky teen that just won't eat anything you cook?

Make sure what they eat counts. They like only chips. Make your own and cook in good fats like butter, coconut oil or ghee. They like fried chicken. Bake it in the oven instead of a takeaway. Making smoothies and milkshakes is a great way to add lots of extra good stuff like berries, yogurt, honey, and even a protein powder if you are worried about lack of protein.

If you are worried about your teenagers’ health and state of mind, then getting outside help from a professional can be the best thing you can do. They can help you and your child navigate this period and learn things that will support them now and in the future. Your child might also be keener to listen to a professional and take their advice.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SE26 & SE23
Written by Elisabeth Carlsson, Registered Nutritional Therapist . Dip Cnm, mANP
London SE26 & SE23

Elisabeth Carlsson is an experienced Nutritional therapist with a special interest in supporting women with female health issues like PMS, fertility, PCOS and supporting the thyroid and the metabolism. Her approach is holistic and personalised, giving them the tools to understanding how to support and nourishing their bodies.

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