Back to school nutrition: High school students have specific needs

Needs change as kids hit puberty

SAN ANTONIO – Eating healthy can be a challenge, but its especially important for growing kids to have a balanced diet.

Dietitians say that as children grow older their nutrition needs change, with high school students at a critical age of development -- having much higher and specific needs.

"It's about helping to create that good food environment and relationship with food because they (teenagers) are going to have more freedom to go to fast food restaurants or be able to drive wherever they like," Rachel Bland, a registered dietitian with Selrico Services said. "That's where education and teaching them about what's out there and how to make those healthy choices comes in."

In fact, many schools are making the change from fried to baked and white bread to whole grain. Food service companies like Selrico Services are emphasizing both nutrition and education.

"(Lunch is) a perfect opportunity to learn more about what's in the food, where its coming from, why its healthy for them, why they are eating it... because food should be serving as nourishment and sustenance. Kids need to grasp that. It's not just to fill your belly, it's so much more than that," Bland said.

Bland said that it's important for high school students to eat right.

"Females are going to go through puberty --- they are going to have more iron losses so their iron needs are going to go up," Bland said. "So in general, more protein more iron. So more protein foods-meats and beans."

Not only will protein needs for boys increase as they age, but their calorie needs will also go up.

"They need to incorporate a healthy diet and get the right portions and as their physical activity level increases and they take on more, as they build more body mass, they need more nutritionally," Bland said.

Bland said it's good to start healthy habits early because eating well can lead to fewer health problems in the future.