When my kids were little, I would look at awe at teenagers. Their huge appetites and their enormous feet. One of the most common topics of conversation with mum's of teenagers was "What do you feed them?" They come home from school and you are peeling them off the fridge doors. We go out somewhere and they are hungry five minutes after leaving home, and weekends are spent feeding before sport after sport and in-between. Nappies have been exchanged for a feeding frenzy. More chaotic, more labour intensive, requiring initiative and creativeness.
So now I have three growing teenagers in my house. I am on my second fridge in 3 years and here are some top tips on how to tame the wild beast/s.
1. Not all snacks have to come out of a packet.
Often, its best to feed the teenagers mini meals as snacks. They will love coming home and heating up some lasagne or having taco's stuffed with chili and cheese. As long it is something that they can get themselves without too much fuss and cleaning up, your teenager will be forever grateful for their full tummies.
Here are some ideas:
Taco's - with a chili meat or bean mixture, grated cheese and salsa
Lasagne - beef or vegetarian
Spaghetti bolognese with lots of hidden vegetables
Container of chopped up veg, boiled eggs, cheese cubes
Protein balls using a good protein powder
Tamari flavoured nuts in a jar
Roasted chili chickpeas
Trail mix with pepitas, sunflower seeds, craisins, almonds
Homemade Banana Bread, Zucchini Bread, Pumpkin Breads
Avocado and Corn Chips (non GMO)
Pizza bases kept in the freezer so they can top with what ever they like.
2. Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Shopping Lists, Shopping Lists, Shopping Lists.
Yes, I may be repeating myself, but without an idea of what you are going to feed the teenager, well, that becomes difficult to shop for, and yes, sets you up to an instant "What's to eat mum". Here is a link to my Meal Planner and Food Inventory List to help you with your planning and shopping. To make it work have that conversation with your teenagers of what they would like, and offer a few suggestions from the above list. All you need is to agree on two dishes that they can heat up after school.
3. Double, Double, Double
Spend a couple of hours cooking extra meals and snacks every week.
Ok, so now you have worked out what your teenagers would like to eat after school. Now lets add all these to the shopping list and set some time aside to cook. When your teenagers come home from school they will now be eating a dish of lasagne or heating up some taco's in the oven or even poaching an egg on toast. Its great, it creates independence and self sufficiency in the kitchen. If you are worried about them using the oven, well encourage them to use the oven while you are around, and when you are confident that all is well, then they can use the oven when you are out. It's a trust thing. The only part that I would strongly encourage is the washing up. Lets face it, it's not a good thing to be coming home to a mess. Urghhhhhhh
4. A balanced diet for a growing teenager
A balanced "just eat real food nutrition" is what growing bodies need to thrive. So, if you are baking cakes and breads use organic flours, free range eggs, whole milks. Choose the best ingredients possible to make your snacks nutrient and energy dense. Provide an array of foods, that are in season and locally sourced. Balance is the key. Often filling up on complex carbohydrates are needed to curb that hunger. What are complex carbohydrates? Foods that have had minimal processing. Like brown rice, wholewheat flours, whole grains, vegetables, fruits. They take longer for the body to break down so the blood sugar remains stable and is less likely to be stored as fat. Hence, a satisfied and happy teenager...I hope.
5. Packet food is a sometimes food
If I had it my way, my kids would not eat any packet foods, but that is unrealistic. I don't buy packet snacks and feel if that is their choice when they are out, then so be it. I try to empower them through conversation. We discuss why packaged foods are unhealthy with balanced discussions on transfats, sugar and high fructose corn syrups, and GMO products. My message is for them to understand that these foods are addictive, unhealthy and a poor food choice. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution series was the turning point for my kids. After that they no longer wanted to eat fast food.
Just remember, to start the conversation with your teenager about what they would like to have for snacks. Provide them with suggestions of a nutritionally balanced plan.
Shop and meal plan accordingly. Its so important to plan your shop so that you are not rushing out to buy ingredients at a moments notice. Otherwise, nothing will get done.
When you have all the ingredients, plan to batch cook, either doubling up on what you have for dinner or setting aside some time to do a batch cook on the weekend where everyone can help.
Empower your teenager. Let them loose in the kitchen. Teach them how to use the oven and stove top. And most of all, let them know how important it is to clean up after themselves. (Totally! for mum's sanity)
Krys Lojek, Nutritionist