Important Facts for Your Teen with CF

Teenage girl getting ready to take a bite of her food
  • Since the teen years are a time of rapid growth, a balanced diet, which includes optimal calories, vitamins and minerals, is important for good nutritional health for any teen with EPI due to CF. Remember that teens with CF need more calories, vitamins and salt than teens who do not have CF. Even if teens eat a diet that is well-balanced, they may also need to take additional vitamin supplements in order to maintain normal vitamin levels
  • In addition, teens with EPI due to CF need to take supplemental pancreatic enzymes every time they eat or drink anything that contains fat or protein. It may be helpful to keep a supply of enzymes wherever you go
  • The teen years can be a very busy time with many school and social activities, so getting the necessary daily nutrients can be a challenge. Keeping a supply of healthy snacks in a backpack or locker is a good idea. Examples of healthy snacks include: nuts, trail mix, packaged peanut butter or cheese crackers, canned shakes, or granola bars
  • Examples of protein sources include: meat and meat products, milk and milk products, fish, seafood, soy products such as tofu, beans, eggs and nuts
    • Foods high in protein are often rich in vitamins, minerals and fat
  • Additional iron is needed during puberty when muscles and blood volume increase. Meats are the best source of iron
  • It can be a challenge to include fruits and vegetables in a high calorie diet. Think about topping ice cream, yogurt, or pudding with fresh fruit. Add vegetables to pizza, lettuce and tomato to sandwiches, and shredded carrots to spaghetti sauce
  • Calcium is needed for healthy bones and teens may need 1,300 – 1,500 mg of calcium daily – about four servings of dairy products every day
    • Whole milk and whole milk products, cottage cheese and yogurt have a lot of calories and calcium
  • Blend whole milk into milkshakes, melt butter over cooked vegetables, or eat snacks like fresh celery and carrots with a creamy dip
  • Fat is the best source of calories. Each teaspoon of fat has 45 calories while protein and carbohydrates have 20 calories. So adding fats to all foods will increase the calories
  • Teens who have CF need extra salt to replace the salt lost in sweat throughout the day, so adding salt to food and planning salty snacks will help replace the salt loss. Some teens enjoy eating Chinese noodle soups, pickles, pretzels or chips as a way to get extra salt. You may need to add even more salt on hot and humid days or if your teen is very active. Talk with your dietitian about how much salt is best for your teen's lifestyle

Developing Positive Eating Habits in Teens with CF

  • Encourage your teen to make healthy choices when eating at their friends’ homes, and pack CF-friendly snacks
  • When going on vacation with a teen with CF, call the hotel ahead of time to arrange for a refrigerator in your room, if available. If you are flying or have a long car trip, bring a bag of snacks such as crackers with peanut butter, muffins or sandwiches to help make the trip go smoothly
  • As your teen starts becoming more independent, make an effort to involve him or her in meal preparation including: planning meals, buying foods and cooking. Take your teen to the supermarket and have them participate in shopping for groceries. They may enjoy watching the cooking shows on TV and find recipes online to make for the family

Healthy Bones in Teens with CF

  • Having strong, healthy bones is essential for overall good health. Strong bones require enough minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and fluoride. When a person does not get enough of these minerals it may lead to either osteoporosis or osteopenia, which means the bones are not as dense as they should be
  • Maintaining a well-balanced diet and developing eating habits that build strong bones is especially important for teens entering puberty, a crucial stage in the body’s bone development
  • To prevent bone density loss, teens should:
    • Intake 1,300 – 1500 mg of calcium daily or about four servings of dairy products every day, such as whole milk, full-fat yogurt and full-fat cheese. For extra calcium, teens can consume calcium-fortified cereals, breads and drinks, as well as add powdered dry milk to recipes
    • Eat food rich in fat-soluble vitamins D, K and A, which help the body absorb calcium and therefore increase bone density. Egg yolks and fatty fishes, such as salmon and tuna are a good source of these key vitamins
    • Take vitamin supplements designed for people with CF to help build healthy bones
    • Choose foods high in zinc and protein, such as meats, eggs and nuts, to aid in bone growth and maintenance of healthy bone tissue
    • Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks like soda and coffee, as they may contribute to lower bone density and do not contain the calcium and vitamin D necessary for bone production
    • Engage in regular exercise and physical activity to help build more bone early in life. A combination of weight-bearing and resistance exercises, like running, walking and weight lifting, are important to good bone health. However, exercise burns calories, so it is essential to eat high-calorie meals or snacks before and after physical activity (see “Managing & Maintaining Energy” section for more information). If your teen is not accustomed to regular physical activity, talk to your CF center care team about building an exercise program to address his or her health needs

*These models are not cystic fibrosis patients.

The CFChef CF Nutrition Guide was developed with input from Registered Dietitian and CF Nutrition Specialist Suzanne Michel, MPH, RD, LDN, based on information and guidelines from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is not affiliated with, and has not endorsed, the AbbVie CFChef program. The content on is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.