Nutrition tips for your Preteen: Age 9-12 years

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Dr.Sajjan Madappady

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Published On: Sunday May 21, 2017

A Healthy diet for 12-13-year-old child

Children of 9-12 years show early sign of puberty. It is a period of both growth and development. A lot of changes are visible such as weight gain, muscle building and bodily hairs in boys and the menstrual cycle starts at the end of 12 years in girls. But, the Body Mass index(BMI) should remain within a normal range.

Adapting habits to eat healthy and nutritious food is a single step for a healthy life afterward. It will metabolize the food in a simpler and easier way. It keeps the functions of the body well maintained. Having healthy food full of nutrition daily will enhance your efficiency. The junk food is tempting but it contains nutrition next to zero and makes you fat due to sugars and fats present in them. Only the taste makes you go for it rejecting the nutritious food.

Nutritional needs

Preteens require a lot of calorie intake due to their growth, development. Physical activities increase calorie needs. The calorie intake also varies due to age, gender, and level of physical activities.

The USDA recommends around 75% of females need 1400-1800 calories for a 9-year-old and to 1600-2200 calories for a 12-year-old whereas males require 1600-2000 calories for a 9-year-old and 1800-24000 calories for a 12-year-old.

Consuming too much of junk food make you obese and incapable of doing the physical exercise in a less efficient way. Eating the packed food in increased amounts led to a spike in the sugar and fats level. These unhealthy habits affect their upcoming lifestyles as an adult. Switching to the street food, packed or junk food is one of the reasons for many health-related problems.

Tips for making a healthy diet for your preteen

  1. Make your teen learn taking responsibility:

As your preteen will mature, they will learn taking responsibilities. Make him/her learn about taking responsibility regarding “what to eat”. In 75% cases, parents are solely responsible when their child brings junk food and soft drinks at home. Parents are deeply responsible for developing bad food habits for their child. 75% of pre-teens are responsible for “what to eat and how much to eat. They always end up in eating packed food and snacks for meals when they are out of the home.

  1. Stick to the time:

Encourage them to eat food always on the dining table, so your family can eat together. Avoid their eating in either in a living room or in the rooms with TV. Have family meals. Always turn off the gadget and TV while eating.  Make him/her learn about healthy eating habits.

  1. Choosing foods:

Help your pre-teen to plan menus, buy food from the grocery shop, and choose new food. Make them learn how to choose and cook healthy recipes. Try new food initially by cooking them as “side dishes”.  Teach them in making simple snacks and meals, like fruit smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. Teach them about basic cooking skills and safe food handling, skills. Supervise them using kitchen appliances.

  1. Create breakfast menus:

Make sure they start their day with a healthy breakfast which should include at least 3 main food groups. Make the same for snacks and packed lunch ideas. Pack less sweetened energy drink if he/she is involved in physical activities.

  1. Source of essential elements and multi-vitamins:

Keep your food rich in calcium. Make sure that the food has enough calcium to meet their needs. Preteens usually require 1300 mg calcium. Source of calcium includes dairy foods low in fats, soy milk, cereal, tofu, salmon, sardines, kale, broccoli, soybeans, and oranges. Encourage food rich in iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin D especially for menstruating women. Iron is present in beef and porkfish, iron-fortified cereals and bread, tofu, legumes, dried fruits, dark green vegetables. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron derived from plants.

  1. A next level:

Always try to pack lunch for your preteen to ensure that he/she don’t go for junk food. Tell your relatives to not treat them with tempting sugary food. Tea snacks should limit in amount. Open their bank accounts to assure that whenever they get the pocket money it should not be wasted on junk food. Make homemade burgers, pizzas or wedges instead of buying them.

Required goal of a healthy diet

The healthy balanced diet of one time should be enough to provide nearly 1400-2400 calories. The contents of a nutritious diet that should be consumed daily is given below:

  1. 5-8 ounces of whole-grain bread. It could be in form of whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, cereal rice, oatmeal, whole grain barley, whole grain wheat flakes cereal and low sugar cereal. They are a good source of fiber and important vitamins and minerals.
  2. 2-3 cups full of vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, red and orange vegetables and beans and peas
  3. 2 cups of fruits, especially those rich in calcium and iron because it will help in maintaining bone density and hemoglobin in a normal range respectively.
  4. A half cup of dry fruits most preferably unsweetened one.
  5. 2 glasses of milk of low fat.
  6. 1 cup of yogurt and cheese in adequate amounts.
  7. 4-6.5 ounces of meat and beans which could be cooked fish, seafood, skinless poultry, lean beef, and pork.
  8. 1 egg
  9. 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
  10. 4-7 tablespoons of oil. The sources are fatty fish, nuts, seeds, cooking oil (like canola, olive, and soybean oil.
  11. 170-360 extra calories from other food groups.
  12. Plenty of water. Prefer water over the sweetened soft drinks to limit the sugar level.


It will be a challenge for you to make your preteen eat healthy for growth, development, and performance.  Focus on increasing calories count by switching to nutrient dense food. Make sure that the food is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and see food to provide omega-3-fatty acids. Food rich in sugar and fats have empty calories and excess of sodium, try to limit them. They should not become a dietary staple. Signs of bad eating habits are of significant concern because they pose a huge concern of body weight and shape, refusal to eat, excessive exercising, laxative abuse, bingeing and vomiting after meals.  Be a role model for them. Advocate for healthy food and physical activities. Instead of focussing on how to snatch unhealthy food for them, find healthy and nutritious food that your preteen will enjoy.

Call 8100-999-111 and talk to Dynamic Medical Experts for FREE. We help you to find the specialists,  get a cost estimate for your treatment, get a second opinion and we also assist you to manage your health care process.


  1. Nutrition for all ages [Internet]. 1st ed. Indiana’s Emergency Food Resource Network; 2015 [cited 16 May 2017]. Available from:
  2. Healthy eating for children (5–12-year-old) [Internet]. 1st ed. New Zealand: Ministry of Health, Manatu Hauora; 2017 [cited 16 May 2017]. Available from:
  3. Nutrition for Your Preteen: Ages 9 through 12 Years [Internet]. 1st ed. 2017 [cited 16 May 2017]. Available from:
  4. [Internet]. 1st ed. United States: HHS/USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans; 2010 [cited 16 May 2017]. Available from:
  5. Becky Bell R, Becky Bell R. A Healthy Diet for a 12-Year-Old [Internet]. LIVESTRONG.COM. 2017 [cited 16 May 2017]. Available from:

Content Credit: Shelja Alawadhi

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