How to fuel a hungry teen
If you’re struggling to keep the pantry stocked, the fridge full and your grocery bill within budget, there is a good chance you’re living with teenagers.
Adolescence is a time of rapid change – physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. With increased nutritional needs for growth and development, it’s no wonder they’re constantly looking for food.
Every teenager is different. Nutritional needs depend on age, growth and level of physical activity. On top of this, eating habits can be influenced by peers, environment and social media*. As teenagers juggle school, sports, socialising and sleep, it’s important they understand the value of healthy eating.
Keeping time and budget in mind, here are six tips to fuel a hungry teen.
1. Make healthy eating work for them
A healthy eating pattern is made up of:
- Plenty of vegetables and fruit
- Grainy foods for energy and fibre
- Some low or reduced fat milk products
- High-protein sources like legumes, nuts, seafood, eggs and lean meat.
Encourage your teen to eat a variety of these foods that suit their taste preferences, culture and lifestyle. Beware of fad diets that restrict/eliminate entire food groups or offer a quick-fix to weight loss.
2. Notable nutrients
Iron and calcium are particularly important nutrients for growing bodies. During adolescence, bone strength and density is rapidly increasing. Eating calcium-rich foods (like milk, yoghurt, cheese and tofu) will support the development of a strong skeleton. Teenagers, especially girls, are at high risk of not achieving their daily iron needs. Lean red meat, poultry, seafood, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes and eggs all provide some form of iron.
3. Be a role model and eat together as a family
Values and habits developed during teenage years can influence behaviours in later life. Eat together as a family, be a role model and encourage your teens to help with meal planning, budgeting and cooking. These skills will come in handy when they eventually enter the world of flatting.
4. Make meals go further
It’s surprising how far a meal can stretch with the addition of basic ingredients. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, veges (seasonal or canned), eggs, oats and brown rice are affordable pantry staples.
5. Be snack wise
What adolescents eat can affect performance both on and off the field. Stock up on snacks that will refuel and satisfy. A fruit smoothie or vegetable sticks with peanut butter or hummus will help fill the gap between school and dinner. Fresh fruit, a handful of nuts or pottle of yoghurt make great on-the-go options.
6. Encourage water and plenty of it
Water is the best choice of drink. Remind your teen to keep hydrated throughout the day, especially during warm weather or when they are physically active. Sports or energy drinks are unnecessary for most young people.
Now is a perfect time to talk to your teenager about making healthy lifestyle choices. Here are some tasty recipes to get them started in the kitchen.
*If you have any concerns or questions about your child/teenager’s eating habits, talk to your GP or with a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
Thank you for your feedback.
The Fuelled4life team.