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How to Grow as a Teen: 7 Tips for a Healthy Growth Spurt

How to grow as a teen…an important question I am often asked by teens.

In other words, teens want to know how to grow taller, or how to spark a growth spurt.

I wrote one of my most popular blog posts to help teens and their parents understand what happens during the teenage growth spurt.

As a childhood nutrition expert, I get questions from teenagers all over the world, and their parents.

Will my teen grow more?

How do you get a growth spurt?

Are there foods that help you grow taller?

What age do girls stop growing?

What age do boys stop growing?

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • what the growth spurt is all about
  • when you can expect it to happen
  • when it will likely stop
  • and how to support it

I will cover 7 ways to support the teen growth spurt:

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat plenty of nutritious food
  3. Get enough protein, but not too much
  4. Focus on calcium and vitamin D
  5. Build healthy eating patterns
  6. Reign in snacking
  7. Promote physical activity
how to grow as a teen: 7 tips to support the teenage growth spurt

The Growth Spurt

A growth spurt is a period of time when growth is accelerated (happening faster than usual). Typically, we see this happen during infancy and adolescence.

During the growth spurt, hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone and others, promote this rapid pace of growth.

It results in more height growth and weight gain than any other time of childhood.

When Do Teenage Growth Spurts Happen?

For girls, the growth spurt begins during puberty, around age 10, and the onset of menses occurs around age 12 1/2 years.

Boys start puberty about 2 years later than girls, around age 12 to 13 years.

Growth Spurt in Boys

Boys tend to see their biggest growth spurt between ages 14 and 16 years, however this is a general age range.

It really depends on when you start puberty, as some boys will go through early puberty and others will be late bloomers, which will shift the age of peak growth.

When Do Boys Stop Growing?

Most boys reach their peak height by 18 years, and tend to be done growing by then.

Some boys grow until their early twenties. That’s why we have standard growth charts up until age 20!

I’ve got more details about this in my article, When Do Boys Stop Growing?

Is My Child an Early or Late Bloomer?

Some kids are late bloomers, experiencing the growth spurt late in the teen years, and even into college.

I just saw a picture of my friend’s son who is a rising junior in college, and it is clear he’s added some inches in the past year.

Other kids are early bloomers and will be done growing by age twelve or fourteen.

For boys, the taller ones in class who look more like men than boys in the early years of high school may be early bloomers.

For girls, the ones who get their periods early fall into this category, generally.

Height Predictor for Boys and Girls

There’s really no formula or equation to predict exactly how tall a teen will turn out to be once he or she has completed the growth spurt.

It’s a mysterious process for teens, but everyone goes through it, at one point or another.

However, we do have a rough estimate calculation that will give you an idea of how tall your teenager will be.

Final height largely rests on genetics (how tall mom and dad are, as well as the influence of distant relatives, perhaps).

The day-to-day environment around typical diet, nutrients, sleep and exercise also play a role in overall growth.

Although you can’t predict the future, you can certainly help set your child up for a healthy, optimized growth spurt by paying attention to a few things.

Final teenage height relies on genetics plus the daily environs such as food and sleep. #growthspurt Click To Tweet

How Can I Trigger a Growth Spurt at 18?

Once the growth spurt has occurred and height growth begins to slow, the end of this heightened period of growing is coming to a close.

If a teen is a late bloomer, it’s possible to grow beyond age 18.

Check the growth chart and talk with a physician to see where you’re at in your growth trajectory.

What Will a Growth Chart Tell Me?

A teenager’s growth chart gives you insight on how he or she is tracking on the height curve; you can make a generalized prediction of final height based on it.

For example, if a teen is growing along the 90%ile for height, and that’s been his course throughout childhood, you can extrapolate that he will end up at the 90%ile at 18 years, which translates to about 6’2” or 6’3”.

But the reality is, kids don’t always follow their growth channel, particularly when they hit puberty.

Listen to the podcast: Children’s Growth 101

My oldest daughter is an example of this. She always tracked on the growth chart to be 5’2” based on her growth channel along the 10%ile for height.

She’s a young adult now, and ended up growing to a height of 5’5”.

So things may change.

You can use the Height Predictor for Boys and Girls below to get an estimate, but please realize it’s just an estimate.

You can compare the results with your growth chart from the pediatrician.

Predicting height is not set in stone. Lifestyle, nutrition and other factors still have a strong influence in the outcome.

How to Grow as a Teen: 7 Ways to Help in Healthy Ways

I’m often asked about how to get a growth spurt going strong. It’s a lot more than eating healthy food. Here are 7 important ways to help your teen grow to his or her full potential.

1. Get Enough Sleep

All teens need at least 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

During sleep, growth hormone circulates at its peak, helping your teen’s body grow.

In fact, studies have shown that if sleep is delayed, the release of growth hormone is also delayed, potentially reducing the overall exposure of the body to growth hormone.

However, during puberty, the teen’s circadian rhythm changes and leads to a shift in his or her sleep-wake cycle.

This makes it challenging for teens to get enough sleep.

They go to bed late, and can’t get up early.

Unfortunately, with the rest of the world operating on an early sleep-wake cycle, teens can get behind and miss out on sleep, which may affect their growth.

2. Eat Plenty of Nutritious Food

Obviously, I am going to sing the praises of good nutrition!

Teens are notorious for getting off course with nutrition, eating more fast food, processed food and sweets.

This is in part related to ages and stages — or specifically, their developmental stage — and budding independence.

However, good—no, great– nutrition is essential to optimal growth.

Remember, during the growth spurt of puberty, calorie and nutrient requirements are at one of their highest points during the entire life span.

You want to make sure the food going into your teen’s body is mostly healthy stuff.

Foods that Help You Grow

There aren’t any magical foods that help you grow, however, there are some important considerations:

1. Choose Foods with Protein:

Protein contains the building blocks for all muscle, organs, bones and other tissues that grow and develop during the growth spurt.

Make sure to eat: eggs; milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese; meats like beef and poultry; fish; nuts and nut butters; beans; and protein-rich grains like quinoa.

2. Look for Foods with Calcium and vitamin D:

Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone growth. Obviously, the long bones (arms and legs) are growing quite a bit during the growth spurt.

Be sure to eat: milk and fortified dairy products; fish and mushrooms (vitamin D); green vegetables (spinach and broccoli)

3. Don’t Forget Foods with Healthy Fats:

Healthy fats provide concentrated calories that also assist with brain development and functioning.

Include more: avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish

4. Foods with Iron:

Iron is important during the growth spurt, as the blood is expanding and girls have additional iron losses with menstruation.

Focus on foods like: dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach; beef; dark meat poultry; beans; and raisins

Caution: Be Careful about Eating Too Many Sweets and Treats

Watch out for too many nutrient-poor foods like sweets and treats. They can add a lot of calories but few nutrients like iron and calcium.

One way to do this is to use my simple rule called the 90:10 Rule.

It separates food into categories, keeping the “growing” foods (nutrient-rich food groups as outlined by the USDA) at a level of 90% of overall consumption, while curtailing the less than healthy items such as sweets and treats to a mere 10% of total intake.

7 Ways to Support Teenage Growth

3. Get Enough Protein…But Not Too Much

Of all the major nutrients, protein is the most important one for growth.

This is not to say your teen needs to pig out on protein—but you do want to serve up real sources of protein in your teen’s diet (not the fake supplement stuff) such as eggs, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and more.

Most teens in their growth spurt need at least a ½ gram of protein per pound of body weight.

More than 1 gram per pound of body weight doesn’t seem to make a difference in growth and may be associated with dehydration.

4. Focus on Calcium and vitamin D

The growth of the bones, particularly the long bones in the legs and arms, show up in your child’s height.

Calcium and vitamin D are the bone-forming nutrients and set teens up for a lifetime of healthy, strong bones.

Unfortunately, many teens do not get enough calcium or vitamin D in their diet, particularly during puberty!

You can ameliorate this by paying attention to sources of calcium and vitamin D in the diet.

From milk products to leafy green veggies, there are a lot of options from which to choose.

Both calcium and vitamin D work together to solidify your child’s bones so they are healthy and strong.

My calcium e-book can help you pick the right food sources and target enough throughout the growth spurt.

My book, Nutrients for Kids, Advanced Guide, helps you stay on track with all the important nutrients in childhood. Click on the picture below to get your copy!

Want to make sure your child is getting the important nutrients for growth? Grab a copy of Nutrients for Kids, Advanced Guide.

5. Build Healthy Eating Patterns

Teens may have eating patterns that can get in the way of good nutrition.

Skipping meals, for one, is pretty common, and this can lead to too much hunger and overeating.

All teens should try to eat three meals per day without skipping—even a light meal, such as a smoothie or a banana is better than skipping altogether.

Ideally, spread out your teen’s food intake evenly throughout the day, timing meals in a rhythmic way, every 3 to 5 hours.

6. Reign in Snacking

Because teens may eat erratically, they often make up for skipped meals or delayed eating with snacking.

This can lead to undesirable food choices, and even overeating.

I ask all my teen clients to be thoughtful and strategic with snack choices.

To give you an idea of what I classify as “healthy snacks,” check out my list of 85…that’s a list of snacks that will last you over 12 weeks!

Click Here to Grab 85 Healthy Snacks for the Teen

If your teen is underweight or a slow weight gainer, start offering a healthy bedtime snack.

It can provide a few extra calories that won’t be burned off by the day’s activities.

7. Promote Physical Activity

I’ve heard some pretty crazy statements, like “basketball makes you grow taller because jumping helps stretch the body…”

Personally, I haven’t seen any evidence or research of this, but I have heard the {tall} tales. 😉

I do think activity helps, in general, because it keeps the body’s engine (metabolism) humming along, and supports a good appetite…which can spur {healthy} eating.

So, if you’re wondering how to grow as a teen in a healthful way, start focusing on these 7 tips. Focus on one of these things for a week, and tell me how it goes…I can’t wait to hear!

This article was updated on September 12, 2020.

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  1. Great post! My daughter, almost 15, grew early-we thought she would be over 6″ based on early growth charts, but I think she’s about finished now ~ 1/2 inch shy of me at 5’9″ 🙂 My son who just turned 13 has been on the “slow and steady” course and is now just under 5’5″, but clearly has a lot more growing to do. Oh, and they both contribute to our BIG grocery bill, but at least they are pretty good (mostly) eaters 🙂