Superfoods Teens Should Eat

Out of all age groups, a teenager’s growing body requires the most energy. And that energy comes from calories. Teenage boys should consume 1,600 to 3,200 daily calories per day on average. Teen girls should consume 1,400 to 2,400 daily calories per day on average.

Group of teen girls having healthy lunch together at school
Steven Debenport / Getty Images

Although your teenager may have no trouble coming up with ways to consume all the calories they need, the quality of food matters. Many snack foods and drinks have little or no nutritional value, resulting in empty calories.

Teens need a variety of vitamins and minerals. They require iron and calcium in particular, which help ensure strong bones. Calcium helps maintain muscles and a healthy heartbeat. Iron helps deliver oxygen through the blood to every part of the body, providing much-needed energy.

So encourage your teen to swap out unhealthy nutritionally void candy bars and sugary soft drinks and consume these superfoods instead.

Cashews and Walnuts

Nuts provide plenty of snack-worthy crunch while offering high amounts of protein and valuable minerals. One ounce of cashews offers 5 grams of protein and 10 percent of the US recommended daily allowance of iron. The same size portion of walnuts (approximately 14 walnut halves) offers 4 grams of protein, 3 percent USRDA value of calcium and 5 percent of the recommended daily value of iron.

Unsalted nuts are the best option, as the sodium levels can get out of hand if consuming quite a few salted nuts. Add cashews, walnuts or other favorite nuts atop a salad or in a bowl of oatmeal for a tasty boost. Add nuts to your teen's lunch or encourage them to pack them in a gym bag for a quick snack before sports practice. A small portion will give your teen plenty of fuel.


Replace ice cream with yogurt or organic frozen yogurt for a healthier version of a cool treat. One cup of plain yogurt provides 9 grams of protein and a whopping 20 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium.

Yogurts made with whole milk typically offer more protein and calcium than non-fat or low-fat yogurt. Look out for sweetened yogurts, especially those with added fruit; sometimes even a small yogurt cup contains more sugar than a can of soda. Mix in your own raisins, fresh blueberries, or strawberries for a healthier alternative to the pre-sweetened yogurts.

Grilled Salmon

Salmon is a good "gateway" health food, even for teens who don't like really like fish. Its consistency and flavor are more like chicken than other types of fish and it can be grilled and seasoned in a similar fashion to chicken. Grilled salmon is also a lot more pure and additive-free than fish sticks or fried fish offerings found in fast-food restaurants. Salmon provides loads of omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart.

One average salmon filet provides 35 grams of protein, 75 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12, as well as high levels of other B vitamins and minerals. It also contains a small amount of calcium.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit serves as a healthy way to satisfy those cravings for candies and sweets, without sacrificing flavor. Keep the fridge stocked with bunches of grapes, blueberries, or strawberries, and fill the fruit bowl with grab-and-go treats such as bananas, apples, or oranges. 

A banana is nature's perfect on-the-go food, offering 10 percent of the daily value of vitamin C and 41 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6. It's also high in potassium and magnesium.

A fruit salad is just as much fun for breakfast as it is for a dessert or nighttime snack. Cut fruit yourself rather than choosing canned fruit cocktails or fruits packaged in syrups which may contain a lot of unnecessary extra sugar or other additives.


There's a strong chance your teenager likes one or more vegetables, which contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. There's no need to push vegetables that they don't like. It's a good idea to make sure you include the kinds they do like with dinner and to keep their favorite vegetables within easy reach In the refrigerator. They can enjoy vegetables raw or cooked, seasoned, with a dip, or mixed with rice or other food.

The list of healthy vegetables is long, and here are a just few your teen might like:

  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Green, red, yellow, or orange peppers
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Brocolli
  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Okra
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Bok choy

Get Your Teen to Eat Healthily

Whether you’re dealing with a picky eater or a child who is always on the go, getting a teen to eat healthily isn’t easy. But the adolescent years can be rife with eating disorders, body image issues, and weight problems, so it’s important to monitor your teen’s eating habits.

Eat dinner together as a family whenever you can. Keep your home stocked with healthy foods and be a good role model. Keep the focus on health, not weight, and get your teen involved in helping you prepare meals whenever possible.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bundy DAP, De silva N, Horton S, et al. Investment in child and adolescent health and development: key messages from Disease Control Priorities, 3rd Edition. Lancet. 2018;391(10121):687-699.

  2. Das JK, Salam RA, Thornburg KL, et al. Nutrition in adolescents: physiology, metabolism, and nutritional needs. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017;1393(1):21-33. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13330

Additional Reading
  • National Institutes of Health: Calcium

  • National Institutes of Health: Iron

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and a highly sought-after speaker.