If you’re constantly coming home to an empty fridge and a sink full of dirty dishes, you’re not alone. Nutritionist and mum of three, Kathleen Alleaume, shares her tips for feeding teens with insatiable appetites.
Growing healthy teens
Be it emotional, social, intellectual, or physical; the teen years come with a tremendous amount of change.
While a healthy diet is essential at any age, it is particularly important for teens and tweens as they undergo periods of rapid growth spurts. Teens must consume a healthy and balanced diet to ensure they meet their energy and nutrient requirements to support bone growth, hormonal changes and organ and tissue development, including muscles and brain.
Teenager food independence
Along with physical changes, teens become more independent and starting to decide what to eat among many of the decisions they begin to make on their own. This may be due to having access to their own money or wanting to explore their own values around eating.
However, adolescents notoriously have the ‘worst’ diets amongst the rest of the population. The latest Australian Health Survey shows that Aussie teens fail to meet their daily recommended amounts of fruit, vegetables and grains and consume higher intakes of discretionary ‘treat’ foods.
Skipping meals is another common practice that often begins in the teenage years that can negatively impact nutritional intake. Skipping meals can lead to excess hunger and poor concentration, and as a result, affect the meal and snack choices they make overall.
Teenagers need a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups, however, how much food is dependent on your teenagers’ body size and their level of activity.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend teenagers aged 14-18 years aim for
- 2 serves of fruit
- 5-5½ serves of veggies
- 3½ serves of dairy
- 7 serves of grains (preferably whole grains)
- 2½ serves of lean meats, nuts, and legumes.
Eating from the five food groups ensures vital nutrient requirements and energy demands are met, such as calcium (for strong bones), protein (for muscle growth and repair), iron (to support growth) and whole grains (for energy and fibre).
How to fill up on nutritious food that won’t blow the family budget.
Get going with grains
Whole grains play a big part in providing the body with the quality carbs to fuel active bodies and busy minds each day. Many nutrients include dietary fibre to help digestion and protein to help you feel fuller.
Many whole grains are convenient pantry staples that form a nutritious base for most meals and snacks. These include rolled oats, high-fibre breakfast cereals, slices of bread, wraps, crackers, brown rice, and pasta.
Power up with protein
Growing teens need protein to support growth and development. So, combining protein with whole grains at every meal is a winning combo for nourishing fuel and regulating their insatiable appetite.
For example, whole grain breakfast cereal with milk, eggs and avocado whole grain toast, fruit smoothies with yoghurt and rolled oats for breakfast. Stuff pita wraps with salad and falafel, cold meat, or eggs. And bulk out casseroles, soups, or pasta with budget-friendly legumes, like chickpeas, and beans for lunch and dinner.
A good way to ensure nourishing food is always at their fingertips is making larger batches to account for second helpings or leftovers for hearty after-school meals before dinner.
Have a snack strategy
Encourage teens to schedule snacks throughout the day to avoid constant grazing and mindless eating – this is especially important if schedules are busy with extra-curricular activities and sports.
Keep the fridge and pantry stocked with nutrient-dense foods that are portable or easy to grab for lunches and mid-morning and afternoon snacks.
I recommend fresh fruit, pre-chopped vegetables, yoghurt, protein-rich nut butter, hummus or cheese on whole grain crackers and dairy-based fruit smoothies.
If you’re looking for a tasty and convenient portable snack, I love the new UNCLE TOBYS Oat Balls and Protein Balls. They’re a delicious, bite-sized snack ball made with the goodness of Aussie oats and real fruit. Perfect for not just your teenagers but for the whole family too!
Role model healthy eating habits
To help your teenagers develop healthy eating habits, it’s essential to create a healthy food environment for them.
There are many ways parents can do this
- Always eat breakfast
- Making time to enjoy healthy meals as a family
- Ensure your teenagers have access to healthy food choices and snacks
Also, you may not realise that your teenagers will mirror the way you eat, so make sure you’re selecting healthy food options when eating away from home or food shopping.