(Healthy) nutrition of children and adolescents

Good nutrition is an important prerequisite for optimal child development. In childhood, the foundation stone is laid for the body substance, whose composition will remain important until old age. Here, the child or adolescent body has special demands on the diet. Compared to their small body, children have to eat much more than adults.

Maximum need for 15- to 18-year-olds

The maximum energy consumption is reached between the age of 15 and 18 years. During the pubertal growth spurt, the need for calcium (1200 mg / day), phosphate (1600 mg / day) and iron (boys: 12 mg / day, girls 15 mg / day) also increases. Accordingly, a gradual adaptation to the dietary patterns of adults takes place during childhood.

Too much of this ...

However, the results of the DONALD study (Dortmund Nutritional and Anthropometrical Longitudinally Study, a study conducted continuously, which looks at participants from infancy to adulthood on their diet and their effects on development) show that children are already around 2 years old Year of life have similar eating habits as adults.

So the supply of animal protein, fat and sugar is too high. This is due in particular to the high consumption of meat and sausage products as well as sweets. The consumption of carbohydrates also increases. The proportion of sugar increases while the proportion of whole grains decreases. Vegetables are often neglected, which is mainly due to hyperacidity of study participants.

In addition, the study shows that increased intake of sweetened soft drinks in female participants is directly related to an increase in body mass index. No direct correlation could be found with male participants.

In the long term, these dietary habits can be noticeable on the scale. According to the Federal Center for Health Education, around 15 percent of all 3- to 17-year-olds in Germany are overweight, and every second to third of them is even severely overweight (obese). In total, the figure amounts to almost two million overweight or obese minors.

Too little of that ...

On the other hand, the group of carbohydrate-rich foods (wholegrain bread, pasta, potatoes, rice) was not well represented. Especially starch and fiber were eaten too little. Among the minerals, calcium, iron and iodine were among the most critical nutrients. Calcium rich are especially dairy products. So in 1 glass of milk (250 ml) and 3 slices of sliced ​​cheese (90 g) put 1000 mg of calcium. Suitable iron suppliers are lean meat and vegetables. Iodine is supplied by sea fish and iodized salt.

According to the 2004 nutrition report, vitamin D and folic acid are insufficiently supplied with vitamins. In addition to calcium, vitamin D plays an important role in bone metabolism. Sufficient intake is therefore of great importance, especially in the growth phase. Vitamin D can also be produced in the skin under the influence of UV light. Therefore, out with the children in the fresh air to run around and great, because also movement is positive for the bone structure. Through muscle work, the osteoblasts (cells in the bone tissue) are stimulated to build up more bone mass.

Folic acid plays an important role in cell division and cell regeneration, therefore the need for growth is increased. For example, the intake recommendations of 200 μg / day for the 1 to 4 year olds increase to 400 μg / day for the 10 to 18 year olds. Folic acid-rich foods are z. Green, rose and cauliflower, peas, spinach, wholemeal bread, legumes, wheat bran and wheat germ.

Abundant, moderate, economical ...

A child is usually well taken care of if offered a varied mixed diet. It should always be fresh and versatile. In addition, the menu should be arranged so that too many kilos have no chance. The research institute for child nutrition in Dortmund has summarized the recommendations for an "optimized mixed diet" (optimiX) in three simple rules:

  1. Plenty of herbal foods (cereals, nuts, fruits, vegetables) and drinks
  2. Moderately animal foods (dairy, egg, meat, fish)
  3. Economical High-fat foods and sweets

The diet of a 10-12 year old child should then contain about 2150 kcal.

If the child does not want to eat what it should eat

Who does not know the discussions at the dinner table, if some foods (especially the healthy ones) are not to the taste of the child? Even children have their likes and dislikes. These are shaped very early in childhood and solidified up to the age of 10. An important role is played by the eating habits of the parents or the family. Therefore, do not be surprised if you find your "secret" love for sweets with your children!

But children also develop their own eating pattern. For example, one child prefers cheese as a sandwich and the other rejects cheese categorically. In these cases, try to offer alternatives to your child. Eg instead of cheese, fruit yoghurt, milkshake or herbal quark. If your child rarely eats fruit, you may be able to inspire it for vegetable sticks. Maybe it's just because of the dosage form. Offer fruit in small pieces, as fruit salad or pureed with yogurt.

Fast food versus healthy food

Children are not necessarily interested in healthy food, but more so in fast food, pizza & co. To ban these popular foods would only make them more interesting. But why do not you develop attractive creations together with your children?

Take some time for a weekend. Buy together with your children: wholegrain flour, fresh tomatoes, fresh peppers, mushrooms, ham, cheese, etc. Prepare whole-grain pizza with fresh vegetables and cheese (for the extra portion of calcium) with your children. In doing so, trust your children to carry out work steps independently. Children from the age of 3 can cut with a knife (use a blunt knife!) And cook simple recipes at the age of 6.

Tip: Prepare a second plate of pizza and freeze portions as a stock! Other favorites that are particularly good for self-production:

  • Turkey burger from wholemeal roll, lettuce leaf, tomato, small turkey schnitzel
  • Chilli con carne with little minced meat and lots of fresh tomatoes
  • Whole wheat waffles with fresh fruit salad and icing


  • Kersting M et al .: Child nutrition in Germany. Results of the DONALD study
  • Bundesgesundheitsbl. - Health Research. Health Protection 47: 213-218
  • Research Institute for Child Nursing Dortmund: optimiX - Recommendations for the nutrition of children and adolescents.
  • German Nutrition Society (DGE) et al .: DA-CH Reference values ​​for nutrient intake 2000
  • German Nutrition Society (ed.): Nutrition Report 2004
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