Underweight teen boys

Are you worried about being underweight? Or perhaps your friends or parents have mentioned it.

You may have friends who are taller, heavier and more muscular than you. We all grow and develop at different rates. Lots of boys don't reach their adult weight until they are over 18.

You can check whether you're a healthy weight by using our healthy weight calculator. If you are underweight, your GP, practice nurse or school nurse can give you help and advice.

There may be an underlying medical cause for your low weight that needs to be checked out. Gut problems like coeliac disease, for example, can make people lose weight.

Read about other medical problems that can cause unexplained weight loss.

Maybe you're having mental or emotional problems that have affected your eating habits. Depression and anxiety, for example, can both make you lose weight.

Or perhaps you haven’t been eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Whatever the situation, if you're concerned about your weight or your diet, the best thing to do is tell someone. There's a lot that can be done to help.

Why being a healthy weight matters

Being underweight can leave you with no energy and affect your immune system, meaning you could pick up colds and other infections more easily.

If your diet is poor, you may also be missing out on vitamins and minerals you need to grow and develop.

The good news is that, with a little help, you can gradually gain weight until you get to a weight that is healthy for your height and age.

Healthy diet for teen boys

It’s important that you gain weight in a healthy way. Try not to go for chocolate, cakes, fizzy drinks and other foods high in fat or sugar. Eating these types of foods too often is likely to increase your body fat, rather than building strong bones and muscles.

Instead, aim to eat three meals and three snacks a day. You should be having:

  • plenty of starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes (choose wholegrain versions or potatoes with their skins on if you can)
  • at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day
  • some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • some milk and dairy food

We all need some fat in our diet, but it’s important to keep an eye on the amount and type of fat we’re eating. Try to cut down on the amount of saturated fat you eat  that's the fat found in sausages, salami, pies, hard cheese, cream, butter, cakes and biscuits.

Cut down on sugary foods, such as chocolate, sweets, cakes, biscuits and sugary soft drinks.

Strength training can also help to build strong muscles and bones. Find out how to increase your strength and flexibility.

Boost your calories

To bump up your energy intake in a healthy way, try these tips:

  • Make time for breakfast. Try porridge with made with semi-skimmed milk and sprinkle some chopped fruit or raisins on top. Or how about eggs on toast with some grilled tomatoes or mushrooms?
  • Crumpets, bananas or unsalted nuts all make good snacks.
  • A jacket potato with baked beans or tuna on top makes a healthy lunch and contains both energy-rich carbohydrates and protein. Adding cheese will provide calcium. 
  • Try yoghurts and milky puddings, such as rice pudding.
  • Have a healthy snack before bed. Cereal with semi-skimmed milk is a good choice (choose a cereal that is lower in sugar), or some toast. 

Find out how many calories the average teenager needs.

You should also make sure you get plenty of sleep. About 8 to 10 hours a day is ideal for teenagers. Avoid smoking and alcohol.

Teen boys and eating disorders

Sometimes there can be other issues that stop you from eating a healthy diet.

If you feel anxious when you think about food, or you feel you may be using control over food to help you cope with stress, low self-esteem or a difficult time at home or school, then you may have an eating disorder.

People with eating disorders often say they feel that their eating habits help them keep control of their lives. But that’s an illusion: it’s not them who are in control, but the eating disorder.

If you feel you may have an eating disorder, help is available.

Tell someone: ideally your parents, guardians or another adult you trust.

The eating disorders charity b-eat has a Youthline, where you can get advice.

Page last reviewed: 11/09/2014

Next review due: 11/09/2016

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

A Fat Lot Of Good Sussex Workshops said on 30 May 2014

This article and all articles on teenagers and children quotes a 'healthy weight' ... but no where can you source what this is and indeed the daily energy requirement is in Kcals attached to it on the NHS site? So how intact can you factual base what a child should be consuming for their age or weight to height ratio in Kcals or grams? This is very unhelpful and incredibly frustrating when you are trying to do your best in amongst an environment that promotes best practice and health promotion .. please help

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