The early teen years are an important time for children as puberty hits, bodies change and growth spurts occur. All 14-year-old children need to eat a well-balanced diet and establish healthy eating habits to ensure they are growing and developing properly. Though carbohydrates are the main source of energy for everyone, teens have a daily required amount that is different than the amounts for kids and some adults.
Recommended Intake for Girls
To understand how many carbohydrates your 14-year-old needs, you first need to understand how many calories she needs, which is dependent upon age, gender and activity level. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 14-year-old girl needs between 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day. If your daughter is into moderate-to-vigorous intensity sports and exercise, such as running, soccer or swimming, her calorie needs will be at the higher end of this range. If she gets some physical activity, such as dance, her calorie needs will be somewhere in the middle. If she is more into books and not so much into athletics, her calorie needs will be at the lower end of the range. Of those total daily calories, 45 to 65 percent should come from a carbohydrate source. For example, an active 14-year-old girl needs between 1,080 and 1,560 calories from carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, this means she should eat between 270 to 390 grams of carbohydrates every day.
Recommended Intake for Boys
If you have an active 14-year-old boy, you may feel like he’s going to eat you out of house and home. Teen boys require between 2,000 to 3,200 calories a day. Calorie needs of sedentary boys fall toward the lower end of that range. Needs of moderately active boys fall in the middle. Active boys need between 2,800 to 3,200 calories per day. Of those calories, 45 to 65 percent should come from carbohydrates. Therefore, an active teen boy would at the most require between 1,440 to 2,080 calories from carbohydrates every day, which is equal to 360 to 520 grams of carbohydrates.
Carbs, regardless of their source, have the same number of calories per gram, but some carb sources have much greater nutritional value than others. Simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars, are naturally found in fruit and milk, which both provide other vital nutrients. Simple sugars are also found in refined sources, such as the sugar you put in your coffee. Packaged cookies and dry cereals mostly consist of simple carbohydrates. Unlike fruit or milk, however, these processed foods have a lot of "empty calories," meaning they contain little nutritional value. Keep fresh fruit, such as bananas, melons and apples in the house and make sure your teen drinks milk instead of soda.
The best sources of complex carbs are unrefined grains. Unrefined grains contain the whole grain, which means they haven't lost vitamins, minerals and fiber from processing. On the other hand, refined grains, including white flour and rice, go through a milling process that causes the loss of many nutrients. Complex carbohydrates are found in a variety of whole-grain products. Given teens oatmeal or whole-grain cereal in the morning, sandwiches made with whole-grain bread for lunch and dinner dishes that include brown rice, barley or whole-wheat couscous.