What do I need to know about preteens’ changing nutritional needs?

July 16, 2014 , ,

At age 10-12, don’t be surprised if your son starts eating more — a lot more — with the onset of puberty.

More servings of each food group in Canada’s Food Guide are recommended beginning at age nine, as shown in this chart:


Number of daily servings

Ages 4-8

Ages 9-13

Vegetables and fruit



Grain products



Milk and alternatives



Meat and alternatives



Preteens and teens need lots of calcium to build their bones.

The jump in servings of milk and alternatives is to ensure kids get enough calcium to support rapid bone growth. Kids need more calcium than adults do! Calcium-containing foods include:

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • canned salmon (with bones)
  • fortified soy beverage
  • sesame seeds
  • almonds
  • leafy greens.


Girls are beginning to menstruate at this age, so they will require good sources of iron in their diet. Red meat, dark poultry, leafy greens, fortified breakfast cereals and legumes are all smart choices.

Ultimately, the diet for preteens is the same as adults. Use this checklist to ensure your son is on track:

  • Eats breakfast daily.
  • Chooses more whole foods and fewer processed foods.
  • Knows fast foods are a treat, not a staple.
  • Chooses water most often; cuts back on pop.
  • Eats lots of vegetables and fruit.
  • Understands proper portions.
  • Knows how to read Nutrition Facts panels.

It’s also helpful to teach kids how to plan meals, grocery shop and cook. And make sure you eat meals together as often as possible; it helps promote communication, ensures a better diet and lowers the incidence of eating disorders, smoking and drug abuse. Remember: you are a role model. Loving your own body and eating healthfully is the best way to encourage your child to do the same.

Heart & Stroke Foundation
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