Feeding your hungry teens and keeping them feeling satisfied and out of the kitchen for more than ten minutes can seem like a daunting and ongoing task.
The main aim for our teens is to eat mainly whole foods (those foods that are as close to their natural state as possible) Of course teenagers will always want to eat some of the less healthful foods too. That is not a problem if it is combined with good healthy whole foods and it doesn’t form too much of their overall diet.
Here are five tips for making sure your hungry teens have access to healthful foods and choose healthy options that will keep them satiated, assist them to concentrate at school and allow them to lead an active lifestyle.
1. Keep a variety of healthy foods in the pantry in full sight. These should ideally be placed in glass jars at the pantry entrance so hungry teens can choose healthy options without having to think too much. Like ourselves, our teens will more likely eat what they see first, and are less likely to search for less healthy options. Some great items to keep in the…
A variety of nuts – some great examples are cashews, almonds, pecans, brazil, pistachio or walnuts. Ensure the rotation of different types of nuts as greater variety leads to more diversity in their gut and hence more optimal gut health.
Seeds – hemp, chia, sunflower, and pepitas are some great options. Your teen should be encouraged to sprinkle seeds on savoury breakfasts and salads, put a teaspoon of them into smoothies or sprinkle them into or on top of porridge.
Homemade or healthy store-bought granola containing a variety of nuts and seeds is an excellent breakfast or snack for your hungry teen. Mix with some natural yoghurt and milk of choice or your hungry teen can simply eat the granola on its own.
Wholewheat or seeded crackers, brown rice cakes, buckwheat cakes or rye cruskits – these are all great for use with dips such as guacamole or tzatziki, or as a carrier for some cheese.
Tinned organic beans and legumes – your hungry teen can add them to salads or when you are cooking, process them and sneak these into any meal you can. Beans such as cannellini beans, kidney beans, black beans, and butter beans are great thickeners for sauces and add so much gut-loving fibre to your hungry teen’s diet.
Oats – Excellent for making porridge or adding to protein balls or slices. You can also process oats to make oat flour to add to pancakes or other baked goods.
Nut- butter – some of our favourites are peanut butter, almond butter or ABC butter. These are all great sources of healthy fat and protein.
Vegetables and fruit of all different colours. The more different coloured plant foods your teen can consume the better. Research has shown that a greater diversity of colours and variety leads to better gut health. Ensure you make it easy for your hungry teen to grab and go. We love to chop some vegetables and fruit and place them in a glass container each morning for packing lunches. Leftovers can be used for your hungry teen’s afterschool snack or dinner.
Fermented vegetables – jars of sauerkraut and kimchi are great to keep in the fridge for your hungry teen to add to the side of a savoury breakfast, to salads or to any dinner dish you serve up. Great for your hungry teen's gut.
A variety of milk – dairy or plant-based milk. Look for plant-based milk that doesn’t contain guar gum or any other additives or preservatives.
A jar of cooked mixed berries or a jar of cooked green apple (a great prebiotic) These can be added to pancakes, mixed with some natural yoghurt or mixed through muffins when baking.
Cheese – cheddar, feta, ricotta or mozzarella to top crackers or to add to a pasta or pizza.
Yoghurt – Greek natural yoghurt is an excellent option. It’s full of gut-loving cultures and is a good source of protein. Steer clear of the dessert-style fruit-flavoured yoghurts that are loaded with sugar. Coconut yoghurt is also a great option if your teen is dairy free.
Eggs – Super quick and easy to prepare in a variety of ways for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Frozen fruits such as mixed berries, mango or frozen watermelon. Perfect to add to a smoothie, homemade icy poles, or stirred through natural yoghurt with a dash of pure maple syrup. Frozen bananas are also fantastic as a sweetener for smoothies or to process into a healthy ice cream either by themselves or with other frozen fruit depending on your hungry teen’s taste.
Coconut water ice blocks – these are great as a sweetener thrown into smoothies, making them super thick and icy.
Healthy baked goods – examples are banana bread, muffins or slices. There are so many great healthy recipes out there to make and freeze for hungry teens’ lunchboxes or a quick after-school snack before sport.
2. Make sure your hungry teen is consuming protein at every meal. Protein is the macronutrient that is most satiating as it will reduce the hunger hormone, ghrelin. High-protein foods for your hungry teen can include animal meats such as chicken, pork, fish, lamb or beef, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, legumes, chickpeas, tofu or tempeh, quinoa or natural yoghurt.
3. Good fats are also a must for your hungry teen. Foods such as salmon, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds all contain healthy fats that your hungry teen needs for their growing body.
4. Educate your teen about good, healthy food. What is the reason behind ‘adding seeds to your breakfast’ or “getting as many colours into your diet as possible’ The more you educate your hungry teen, the more likely they are to make mindful choices when it comes to food.
5. Avoid shaming our hungry teens for wanting less than healthy foods, or for wanting to use food as a comfort. This is actually quite normal for teens and is related to them craving a quick dopamine hit. Educating them as mentioned above will allow them to make better choices.
Good luck feeding your hungry teens.
Remember that adding to your hungry teen’s diet rather than taking away is a great way to get them to eat a diet full of healthy diversity and variety.