Healthy Eating Tips for Feeding Hungry Teenagers
Most parents with teenagers know about food disappearing as fast as it is bought and have heard the whine, ‘there is nothing to eat, ’ despite the fridge and pantry being well stocked. Keeping teenagers fuelled with nourishing food can be a challenge.
During the teenage years growth happens at different rates. It is hard to generalize on what one teenager needs compared to another. What we can say though is that by making the healthy food choices the easy choices our adolescents are more likely to fuel themselves well through these formative years. Stock the fridge and pantry with nutritious easy to prepare choices.
1. Stocking the fridge and pantry
‘Grab a piece of fruit if you are hungry,’ my mum used to say. If we want this to be reality and nourishing choices to be the norm here are some tips:
- Prepare a fruit platter at the start of the day for during the day, after school or after dinner. Watch cut up fruit disappear whilst whole fruit sits in a bowl sit for the week
- Choose mostly fresh wholefoods when shopping e.g. fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrain bread, cereals, milk, yoghurt, eggs, fish, legumes, lean meat, nuts and cheese for meal making and snacks. Mini meals make great snacks
- On the weekend cook a weekly pot of soup ready in the fridge hungry bodies at anytime
- A container of cut up carrots, cucumber and capsicum ready to grab with a hummus dip goes down a treat
- Cheese and wholegrain crackers with a handful of cherry tomatoes or olives
- Wholegrain bread or muffins to make delicious hot toast or sandwiches
- Canned food for meals or snacks e.g. baked beans, soup, fruit, tuna, salmon
- Cooked pasta, rice, quinoa or chickpeas can be stored in single serve containers in the freezer that can have a pre made sauce added to them with a handful of frozen vegetables thrown in
- Frozen mixed vegetables can be easily microwaved, steamed or pan fried to accompany some dumplings, leftover chicken or added to leftover rice with an egg thrown in.
- Have some eggs on hand as they are a quick protein for any time of day
- Dried fruit and nuts make good travel snacks that can stay in a teenagers bag for weeks (better than a squashed banana left in a bag)!
- Breakfast cereal with milk, yoghurt or Rokeby Farms drinking yoghurt, Filmjolk makes a great carbohydrate and protein pre or post training snack for hungry teenagers
- Frozen berries to make a smoothie with Rokeby Farms drinking yoghurt, Filmjolk
- Buy smaller amounts of ultra processed foods. These are commercially baked biscuits, cakes and confectionary type foods and think about where they are placed in the pantry. At the back, not at eye level or arms reach so they look for other more nourishing options first.
2. Developing good eating habits
Adolescents who eat together frequently with at least one other of their family, have a healthier diet research has shown.
A structured mealtime environment and creating a positive family meal atmosphere are all linked with lower rates of disordered eating in adolescents, particularly in young women.
Enjoying a meal together encourages trying of new foods and development of new cooking skills that can be carried on to adult life.
Rather than meal preparation being a drag for one person, ask family members to pitch in. As teenagers can be, dare I say a little moody, and also busy, don’t set expectations too high. Start off with asking for them to join in with one or two of the more enjoyable aspects of the cooking; not the washing up! It can be a fun way to spend time together whilst developing life skills. Those who learn to cook wont have to rely on ordering take away. Cooking also gives an appreciation of food and the effort gone into making a meal.
No Fad Diets- enjoy all foods
Body’s change at a varying rate during adolescents and come in all shapes and sizes. It is important to avoid fad diets, eliminating whole food groups (e.g. not eating bread, cutting out meat without getting guidance) to try and reduce weight. Keeping active and eating a range of whole foods for the variety of vitamins and minerals needed is important.
If you have any concern an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can provide nutrition and dietary advice to make sure teenagers are meeting their nutritional needs. They can also work with teenagers to improve body image and self-esteem.
Party Food that is Tasty and Nutritious
Let’s help change the mindset that people wont like or enjoy wholesome food in social situations. Somehow ultra-processed packaged food has a high social status as being ‘treat’ foods that are special. Generally, they come out of a packet and have had little love or care gone into making them, unlike a delicious pot of homemade spaghetti bolognaise, that is everyone’s favorite!
Give some credit to our young adults that they will like and enjoy tasty food.
Here are some tips to help you create a tasty spread for when your teenager has some friends over that goes beyond a table full of sugar and salt laden food.
- Homemade chicken nuggets – crumb some chicken chunks and oven bake them.
- Stir fry – beef vegetables and noodles, served with chopsticks.
- Homemade pizza – let some energy out and bang out the dough and everyone choose their own toppings.
- Jacket potatoes with a selection of fillings (e.g. chilli beans, corn, coleslaw, cheese) to build their own.
- Sushi, rice paper rolls or poke bowls – set out an array of ingredients and everyone can have fun constructing their own. Watch them share the creations on social media!
- Barbeque – corn cobs, mushrooms, sliced potatoes, kebabs, lean mince hamburgers, kangaroo sausages, marinated chicken thighs, wholegrain rolls or wraps with bowls of salad.
- Movie time snacks: plain popcorn, colourful vegetable sticks with hummus or tzatziki, fruit and cheese platter, fruit and nut balls, Rokeby Farms Dutch Chocolate or Choc Honeycomb Protein smoothie heated up to make a delicious hot chocolate!
Think water’s too boring? Offer it with a twist – fill jugs with floating fruit (such as orange slices or berries) and ice cubes. Other options could be soda water, smoothies or particularly pre or post exercise or breakfast on the run Rokeby Farms Protein Smoothies.
Accredited Practising Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian
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