Adolescents going through puberty often feel hungrier and eat more than they are used to. This is completely normal and to be expected! Big growth spurts occur during puberty, where the growth rate increases immensely and adolescents shoot up. On average, kids grow between 1.5 - 2 inches per year between their toddler years until their growth spurt starts. During the growth spurt, girls or XX individuals grow around 2-3 inches per year for about 2-3 years and boys or XY individuals grow around 3-4 inches per year for about 3-4 years. Remember, this is an average rate and is very much affected by genetics and your personal body.
Growth spurts occur at different times and at different rates for everyone, but with all growth spurts comes an increased appetite. As our bodies get bigger, they require more energy, and energy needs tell the brain that the body is hungry. So, when adolescents going through puberty are super hungry and eat more than they are used to, it is because their body needs more calories (energy) to support their growth and development.
It is important to be mindful of the foods being consumed during this time. Our bodies need complete meals full of nutrients – including protein, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Rather than snacking all day – grazing on carb, fat, or sugar heavy foods – and not eating real balanced meals, increase the number of meals being consumed instead and pay attention to what those meals are made up of.
This is not to say that foods should be avoided, instead just be mindful that the body is being fueled properly and healthy eating habits are being formed during this time. Some examples of healthy snacks and meals may be fruit with nut butter, vegetables or pita with hummus, oatmeal with fruit, chicken with rice and veggies, turkey burgers with roasted potatoes. These are just some ideas but a healthy balanced meal should have carbohydrates (beans, rice/grains, many fruits and vegetables), protein (meat/poultry/fish, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds), and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado).
All of this is to say, the increased hunger is normal and nothing to freak out about. It is the body's way of telling us that it is changing and needs more energy. So, do not ignore those hunger cues … there is a reason for them and they should be fed!
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