Teens with Cystic Fibrosis - Nutrition

Teenage years can be both fun and challenging for anyone, but this is especially so for teens with CF. During the teen years many changes take place.This is the time when puberty happens and growth really takes off. There appears to be a connection between higher body weights and lung function. Maintaining a healthy body weight is important in order to grow and maintain good lung function. This is true even after growth has stopped. Teens with CF can do almost anything their peers can do. So remember to focus on nutrition in order to stay healthy and active!

Important Nutrients for Teens


Most teens need about 2000 to 2500 calories. Teens with CF may need as many as 3000 to 5000 calories per day in order to grow well and stay healthy. Increasing fat in the diet is a good way to get more calories. You can add healthy fats like oil to pasta, avocado, nuts and salmon to salads, and nut butters to bread.


Teens need more iron during puberty and for muscle building during growth and development. Foods high in iron include meat, fish, seafood, fortified breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, beans, and raisins.


Calcium is important for teenagers to help build strong bones.People with CF in general are at risk for bone disease. Maximize your bone building capacity by including three servings from the dairy group each day.Foods high in calcium include milk, yogurt, and cheese.In addition, it is common for people with CF to malabsorb fat soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin D, that helps aid in the absorption of calcium. So remember to take your CF vitamins!


Zinc is an important nutrient for the immune system, wound healing , and growth. Zinc is found in meats, fish, seafood, beans, seeds, nuts and fortified breakfast cereals.

How can I get the nutrition I need when I have a busy lifestyle?

Teens are busy people. In addition, teens with CF need to have time to do all of their respiratory treatments and still have time to lead an active lifestyle.Getting enough calories during the day can be a challenge, but it can be done with some planning.

Breakfast on the go can be a breakfast sandwich made with extra cheese, smoothies, muffins, full-fat yogurt with granola, or a bagel with cream cheese

Stock your backpack or locker at school with high calorie options like sports bars, trail mix, pre-prepared supplements (Ensure plus©, Boost plus©), peanut butter or cheese crackers.

Make your afternoon snack count: Try sandwiches with extra cheese, avocado, and bacon.   Make super milk with whole milk and half and half and drink with some oatmeal, raisin, and walnut cookies. Make a mini pizza with an english muffin and double the cheese.

Don’t forget the dessert. Having a bedtime snack or dessert can provide the extra calories you need. Make a sundae with high calorie ice cream, nuts, fruit, and other toppings.Have a bowl of cereal or granola with half and half. Make a homemade milkshake or smoothie with your favorite ingredients.

CF Related Diabetes

Some adults and teens with CF have cystic fibrosis related diabetes. This type of diabetes is different than the types of diabetes that occur in people without CF. In CF, the pancreas may be clogged with mucus.When this happens insulin is not secreted into the blood very efficiently.As a result, blood glucose may increase.This type of diabetes occurs often in individuals with CF, especially as they get older. For this reason, all people over the age of 6 are screened yearly with an oral glucose tolerance test. If blood sugars remain high, people with CF are referred to a diabetes specialist that will determine the best way to treat them.

Teens with CF can lead active healthy lives.Paying attention to nutrition and eating a high calorie diet, taking prescribed vitamins and enzymes, and monitoring for diabetes can help teens stay healthy and reach their goals!