Your teenager is busy discovering themselves; learning who they are and what they like. They are craving their own identity, but also don’t want to feel different from everyone else. Their body is changing. They are growing and developing at a rapid rate.

Being overweight is a common concern, especially in this day and age. Teenage obesity rates are high and are continuing to climb. One the other end of the scale are teens whose bodies only seem to stretch upwards. It seems as though they are never going to fill out. They can start to feel self-conscious because they are skinny. They are desperate to gain weight.

 

Healthy Weight For Teens

In the world we live in, being thin is desirable1. All too often the body image struggles of the skinny teen are ignored. They feel different from their peers. They may be teased because they are just skin and bones2. So, what is a healthy weight for teens?

As with adults, there is a range when it comes to a healthy weight for teens. It is a bit more difficult to estimate for teens because the teenage years are a time for rapid growth and development. For adults the healthy BMI range is 18.5 to 24.5 kg/m2. The ideal range for teens depends on age and gender3. There are BMI calculations for teens available online.

If your teenager is skinny, s/he is probably sitting at the bottom of the weight range. For these teens it can feel like no matter what they eat, they just don’t fill out.

 

Why Your Teenager Is Skinny

There are numerous reasons your teen could appear to be underweight. While there may be an underlying medical disorder that prevents your child from gaining weight, it is more likely one of these reasons4:

  • They have a high metabolism, burning more energy than they can eat.
  • They do a lot of physical exercise.
  • Teens are often too busy to eat.
  • A growth spurt can see them growing taller and leaner.

 

How To Support Healthy Weight Gain In Adolescence

Gaining weight can be tricky for those who are naturally lean. Most of us would love to have their “problem”, but it can be harder for these people to gain weight than it is for someone who is overweight to lose it. While your teenager may feel like they have free reign and they can eat whatever they want, they still need to focus on healthy food. That way they will gain lean weight rather than increase their body fat percentage.

Healthy weight gain begins with a balanced diet5. As with everyone else, your skinny teen needs to eat regular meals that consist of foods from all of the food groups. Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, dairy and fruit and vegetables should be on their menu every day.

The skinny teen’s energy requirements can be higher than average6. They will have to eat a larger quantity of food to meet their energy and nutrient requirements. Starting the day with a protein-based breakfast such as cheese or eggs on toast with some veggies or a piece of fruit will make it easier to eat everything they need to eat in the day.

Make sure to pack a full, nutritionally balanced lunchbox to see them through the school day. And follow that up with a hearty meal after school. If they are staying at school for sport or other extra mural activities, pack an extra lunch box so that they are fueled for their afternoon commitments.
Snacks are an important part of the skinny teen’s daily routine. It can be a challenge to consume the volume of food they need in just three meals. Keep a stock of protein packed snacks such as yoghurt, cold meat or boiled eggs for them to grab when they are hungry. Carbohydrate snacks such as whole wheat crackers, popcorn or a peanut butter sandwich make great options too. And don’t forget fruit! It is the ideal on-the-go snack.

What If Your Teen Needs More Energy Than They Can Eat?

A high metabolic rate combined with rapid growth and development and a busy schedule can make it difficult for your teenager to meet their energy requirements. Meal replacement shakes, as long as they are properly formulated, are a handy way to get the nutrition without having to spend time preparing and eating a meal. It is easier to drink your calories than to eat them.

It is possible for your skinny teen to gain lean weight the healthy way. A healthy balanced diet can be supplemented with a meal replacement shake to ensure that they meet their energy and nutrient requirements – helping them to fill out and improve their body image.

 

References

1. Reel J, Voelker D, Greenleaf C. Weight status and body image perceptions in adolescents: current perspectives. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics [Internet]. 2015 Aug [cited 2021 Dec 1];149. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/AHMT.S68344
2. Blashill AJ, Wilhelm S. Body image distortions, weight, and depression in adolescent boys: Longitudinal trajectories into adulthood. Psychology of Men & Masculinity [Internet]. 2014 Oct [cited 2021 Dec 1];(4):445–51. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034618
3. Chung S. Body mass index and body composition scaling to height in children and adolescent. Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2021 Dec 1];(3):125. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.6065/apem.2015.20.3.125
4. Holstein BE, Andersen A, Damsgaard MT, Madsen KR, Pedersen TP. Underweight among adolescents in Denmark: prevalence, trends (1998–2018), and association of underweight with socioeconomic status. Family Practice [Internet]. 2021 Oct 29 [cited 2021 Dec 1]; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmab134
5. Zalewska M, Maciorkowska E. Selected nutritional habits of teenagers associated with overweight and obesity. PeerJ [Internet]. 2017 Sep 22 [cited 2021 Dec 1];e3681. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3681
6. Jodhun BM, Pem D, Jeewon R. A systematic review of factors affecting energy intake of adolescent girls. African Health Sciences [Internet]. 2017 Mar 7 [cited 2021 Dec 1];(4):910. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/ahs.v16i4.5