by Philemon kwizera, RN

In general, a person between the ages of 13 and 20 is considered an adolescent. It is a time of profound physical, emotional, and cognitive changes during which a child develops into an adult. It tends to begin between the ages of 10 and 13 in girls and between 13 and 16 in boys.

During the period of adolescence (10 to 20 years), the average male doubles in weight, gaining approximately 32kg and 33 to 36 centimeters in height. Girls gain approximately 23kg and 23 centimeters in height.

Bones grow and gain density, muscle and fat tissue develop, and blood volume increases. Sexual maturity occurs. Boys’ voices change, girls experience the onset of menses, and both may experience acne. Acne is not caused by specific foods but by over activity of the sebaceous glands of the skin. Adequately nourished girls develop permanent layers of adipose or fat tissue. This is normal and desirable, but the fat creates panic in the young girl wishing to be thin and fashionable.


The nutrient needs and energy requirements are very high during adolescence. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the highest in any life stage except during pregnancy. More food is needed, and girls need to increase their in take earlier than boys. Despite, boys’ calorie requirements tend to be greater than girls’ because boys are generally bigger, tend to be more physically active, and have more lean muscle mass than do girls.

Because of menstruation, girls have a greater need for iron than do boys. The DRIs for vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B 12 , calcium, phosphorus, and iodine are the same for both sexes. The DRIs for the remaining nutrients are higher for boys than they are for girls.

Focus on eating foods that are high in nutritional value. Limit foods with low nutrition value, like sweet drinks, chips, cakes, mandazi, and biscuits. There is an expression in some cultures “you are what you eat

  • Eat at least three meals each day, and consume different types of food at each meal.
  • The best foods include milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat (including organ meat like liver, heart and kidney), fish, eggs, grains, groundnuts, peas and beans, and vegetable oils.
  • Eat many different types of colorful foods every day, like orange flesh sweet potato, dodo, papaya, mango, pumpkin, spinach, and other dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Eat foods rich in iron, including organ meats like liver, heart and kidney. Iron is a very important nutrient for girls and women because they lose iron every month during menses.
  • Plant-based foods, such as green vegetables, tomatoes, mangos, papaya and passion fruit, are rich in vitamins that also help the prevention of anemia. Eat these foods at the same time as foods rich in iron
  • Eat foods that are rich in protein, like milk, meat (beef, goat, pork, and chicken), eggs, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • If you drink tea or coffee with meals, it can interfere with your body’s use of iron-rich foods. Take them separately from the meal.

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