Teens, the awkward time when your children are maturing, but they are not yet an adult. Being a teenager can be a challenging time, their body is changing and they can feel self conscious, “what clothes will hide the bumps and what can I do about acne?” This stage can be confusing, not only for the teen, but also for parents as they try to teach their teen important life skills. Getting the teen in my household to eat proper meals instead of sugary snacks and too many pre-packaged foods is a challenge which I have started to address.
Educating teens on the benefits of food, how it will make them feel and what it will do to their body is a strategy I am using at home to help improve my teen’s diet. It is back to that 4 year old question, but why? Why isn’t it healthy? John in my class has this every day or it is available at the tuck shop. My answer: white bread won’t fill you up for as long as wholegrain bread and lollies won’t provide lasting energy when you are tired.
I’m sure you can relate to some of the statements I have received from my teen who comes home after school hungry, tired and grumpy after packing her own food - “I don’t like that”, “it’s cold”, “it bruises in my lunch box” and “I don’t eat them”. So with the aim of fostering a healthy, happy teen, my number one challenge was clearly the school lunchbox. Here are some of the tips we came up with to educate our teen on healthier foods.
Ensure there is variety; yoghurt pottles, nuts, seeds, wholegrain crackers with tuna or tuna spread, vege sticks with hummus, wraps, homemade sushi, soup in a thermos, rice paper rolls, a boiled egg, rice or pasta salad, homemade pizza slice, mini frittata’s or vegetable tarts, left-over’s, or a grown- up sandwich. With so many options it is all about being a little creative and trying some new things.
Going off to school with a good breakfast is a great start. If you are organised with your time then baked beans on toast, poached or scrambled eggs, a banana berry smoothie with LSA, wholegrain porridge with maple syrup and fresh fruit, oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes with honey and banana or corn fritters with avocado and tomatoes are some great options. These offer a lot more nutrition than jam on toast as they are walking out the door.
After school sports, activities and homework can demand a lot from growing teens. Teens need fuel, it should be wholesome and often they will want it quickly. Homemade toasted sandwiches, soups, sushi, peanut butter and banana on toast, marmite and cottage cheese on wholegrain toast, or a smoothie made with milk, cocoa powder and blueberries. Before sports training ensure a drink and a snack is had. If you have only an hour before training, try a drink and a handful of scroggin mix. If you have 1 -2 hours you may like a more substantial snack such as peanut butter and banana on rice cakes. Having a snack after training is a great way to refuel, remember to have this within 1 hour.
If your teen is exploring the vegetarian option, it can be a challenge for a parent used to cooking meat and three veg. “What do I serve my child?” Getting enough protein from non-meat sources is the key. Experiment with eggs, tofu, lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas combining these with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus, tomatoes or kiwifruit to enhance iron absorption. Be creative with soups and wraps.
We have made some progress with my teen’s lunch box for the time being but she will need fresh new ideas and input from time to time. If you are concerned that your teenager is not getting all the nutrients he/she needs, whether it is showing through their energy levels or general health, you may want to consider an age-specific multi vitamin as a daily top up.