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I'm asking this question from the my POV as a teenage boy.

As some of you probably know, teenage boys eat. And then eat some more.

The problem is, my parents haven't quite figured that out yet. I'm the oldest, so they don't have much experience with teenagers. To my bad luck, my father says he never ate like that when he was my age.

For example, we had sandwiches a few days ago. I had three, and was denied a request for more... and more... However, i only get really hungry sometimes, at random intervals.

What can i tell my parents to convince them to let me eat as much or as little as i feel i need?

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    I agree that teenage boys do seem to eat a lot. But not all boys are created equally. Not all boys have the same metabolism, burn the same number of calories per week, etc. What does your doctor have to say about this? Our children's doctor had good advice for all of my kids, including about food. Then there is the issue of healthy food. Do they ever object to the amount of vegetables and fruits you eat? ') If you tell us more, (height, weight, general level of exercise, general health, we may be able to be of more service. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jan 2 '15 at 12:27
  • I'm not sure what all the medical data has to do with this. I'm simply looking to explain to my parents that this is normal enough. But to address your questions, i'm average height/weight, healthy, with slightly less exercise than is recommended. I eat generally rounded vegetarian meals. – Scimonster Jan 2 '15 at 12:59
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    Well, if you're of average height and weight, it's likely you are actually getting enough to eat (else you'd be thin). Maybe someone else will give you a good answer. :) – anongoodnurse Jan 2 '15 at 13:10
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    If you are still hungry after 2 sandwiches, then you should be trying something a little denser. Add more meat or peanut butter to your sandwich. Perhaps ask for some oatmeal or sweet potatoes, something that will fill you up more that isn't just going to burn away fast as light bread or chips. – scrappedcola Jan 2 '15 at 16:49
  • How long are you waiting after eating before going for your extra helpings? Once your body has food, the physiological process that tells your body to stop sending hunger cues takes 20-30 minutes to take effect. Maybe your parents are denying your initial requests so that you wait until your body might catch up to the food. Also, drinking a glass of water 15 minutes before your meal helps you feel full more quickly and stay feeling full for longer, but it has to be done before the meal, but not immediately before. – user11394 Jan 4 '15 at 5:34
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As a Scout Leader, I've seen this a lot of times. Typically the parent of a boy of about 13/14 years old expresses astonishment (and sometimes embarrassment) at the amount their son will suddenly eat, if given the opportunity.

I don't want to be sexist here, obviously in many families it is the father who does the cooking, but in my experience it's always been mums rather than dads who find the amount that their adolescent sons eat astonishing, and sometimes equate it with greediness.

I think the reason for the astonishment - and, sometimes, simple lack of belief that they really are that hungry - is that boys go quickly from (in pre-adolescence) needing fewer calories than an adult woman to (in mid to late adolescence) needing more - sometimes a lot more.

!Table 2-3. estimated calorie needs per day by age, gender, and Physical activity level

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Other sources which basically confirm the same thing: NHS1 (children), NHS2 (teens)

So, depending on your level of physical activity, as a 16-year-old male you now need from, if you do no physical activity at all, 2000 calories per day (about the same as your mum, maybe a little bit more) up to, if you're very active, 3200 calories per day (suddenly way more than your mum - more than anyone else of any age).

What to do? Here's some suggestions:

  • Talk properly to your parents. As you're their oldest they may simply not have realised that your calorific requirement is now likely to be so much higher than theirs.

  • Fill up on cheap foods which are easy to cook extra quantities of. Here in the UK we have 'Smash' (instant mashed potato) - i.e. carbohydrate which you make with hot water and powder - I'm not sure what the equivalent is in other countries. But filling up with potatoes or rice is generally a pretty decent idea. Don't expect to get twice as much of the expensive-and-delicious part of the meal as everyone else - the rest of the family are likely to perceive that as unfair. "Mum, can I have an extra baked potato?" is likely to go down a lot better than "Mum, can I have an extra joint of beef?"

  • Don't eat crap. It'll be a lot easier to convince your parents that you're not simply being greedy if you're asking for foods which are healthy, balanced etc. Make sure you're getting your 5 fruit and veg per day, and all that.

  • Learn to cook. It's my personal opinion that, at 16yo, if you're not cooking dinner for the whole family at least once a week then you're not playing your part in the family as a young adult. Your family may have a different view, but I'm betting that if you combine your request for more food with an offer to do more of the shopping and cooking (for the whole family, not just for yourself) then it's more likely to be taken seriously. As in, "hey, mum, dad, two issues I'd like to talk about, 1: I need more calories per day than you do, and 2: put your feet up and have a cuppa while I take responsibility for buying and cooking dinner for the whole family at least once a week".

  • Bear in mind (and raise in your conversation with your parents) that calorific requirement varies very widely depending on your build and your level of physical activity. So if you're a big guy who's on the football team and jogs 10 miles each day whereas your father at the same age was a small guy who put in a solid 3 hours of chess practise each day, then you are going to need to eat a lot more than he did at the same age.

  • Prove that you're not just being greedy. Work out your BMI (body-mass-index) and demonstrate that it's not higher than it should be (assuming that it isn't - if it is then you maybe need to rethink this whole thing).

I hope that's all helpful, feel free to come back to me with questions or comments.

I suggest you simply show your parents this question and answer and ask to discuss it with them (remind them that you haven't embarrassed them in front of the world because no-one here has any idea who you are). I'm a parent (although my kids are a lot younger than you) and a lot of other people here are too, so hopefully some of us are seeing the parents-eye view here too.

PS - porridge is cheap, filling, healthy and easy to cook. Making yourself an extra bonus meal of porridge occasionally can help.

PPS - I've just noticed that you're vegetarian. OK, you're probably good on the "5 a day" front, but you are going to need fairly vast quantities of most vegetables in order to reach the likely calorific requirement. Consider snacking on things like nuts, which are pretty high-calorie.

  • Did you post before finishing the answer? Please reply when you update. – Scimonster Jan 3 '15 at 20:56
  • Hi @Scimonster, yeah, I was worried about losing what I'd already written, still updating... – A E Jan 3 '15 at 20:59
  • @Scimonster, that's it with the edits for now, feel free to come back with questions / comments. Hope it's helpful. – A E Jan 3 '15 at 21:20
  • This chart seems way off - I am a 29 year old Female and my (thoroughly researched) healthy caloric intake for a sedentary lifestyle is 1200-1400 calories. – user7678 Jun 7 '15 at 17:05
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    @RachelD, height and weight makes a difference too, see footnote (a) to the table. – A E Jun 8 '15 at 18:19
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Find out what worries your parents: If they refuse to give you another sandwich, they must have a reason. Could be money, health concerns, fear of you becoming overweight, some philosophical concerns, etc. You can much more effectively communicate and find a solution if you know what specifically is bugging them in the first place.

For example: it if's money you can research "budget" foods or make a plan to buy in bulk. A sack of rice and beans is super cheap and fairly healthy. If it's health concerns, agree on tracking come metrics: amount of exercise, weight, etc.

In my experience, Vegetarians and especially Vegans will require more food, so it may be useful to point to research this specifically and point it out to your parents.

One of my sons is a vegan and easily has 6-8 large meals a day (if he can get it). He's thin as a stick, but very healthy. My daughter eats probably 20% of that amount.

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It may help if you approach it more scientifically than simply "need more food!" Discuss calories with them. For example, the USDA Daily Food Plan website says a moderately active 16-year-old male needs 3200 calories a day. This is nearly twice what I'm supposed to eat a day as an adult woman, so at first glance it's almost absurd -- but when I pause and consider the different physiology and age, it makes more sense. This approach shows you're exploring the issue practically, and not just complaining about being hungry because you feel hungry. I don't think you need to get into strict calorie counting ("I've only had 2900 today, give me another sandwich!" would be a bad approach), but showing the difference from what they expect you to eat should help.

Consider contributing to the food purchasing process. If it's possible financially, super -- but at the very least, go along when grocery shopping, make suggestions for items to put on the list ("Can we have this kind of pasta" or "How about we get some whole-wheat bread, that's more filling"). This gives you more input on both quantity and type of food, and also demonstrates that you're conscious of the level of effort required to plan and provide meals.

Finally, as a family you can research "better" foods that can help you through your hungrier days -- as you note, this is a somewhat random problem. Look into high-energy satisfying snacks (trail mix, protein bars) as well as "filling" foods (popcorn, rice cakes) that keep well and can be in the cupboard for on-demand snacking. Again, you're showing that you are taking a mature, practical approach.

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