In my house gone are the days of the picky pre-schooler. Instead I'm seeing two growing teenagers who seem to be constantly hungry. In particular the minute they get in from school! Teenagers have a higher energy requirement to accommodate their growth. However 41% of today's Australian teenage diet is coming from discretionary food choices that are linked to obesity, increased risk of diabetes and tooth decay. Did you know that tooth decay is five times more prevalent than asthma among Australian children?
Key micronutrients at this age are calcium, iron and zinc. For both boys and girls the growing skeleton requires increased amounts of calcium to help reach peak bone mass in their 30s. Think dairy - milk, yoghurt and cheese. As soon as girls start menstruating their iron needs increase, but boys need iron too for growth and energy. Red meat and fortified breakfast cereals like weetbix are a good source of iron.
So how can you fill up your teenager and steer them away from the packaged stuff?
- Make sure their afternoon tea will fill them up for a couple of hours. Those small packages of processed food (even if you get it in the health food aisle) are unlikely to do that. A good snack will combine a serve of protein along with a wholegrain carbohydrate. For example, wholemeal toast with nut butter, or a toasted wholemeal english muffin with cheese, or corncakes with ricotta and tomatoes.
- Fill up the fridge with vegies and fruit. Have easy to grab fruit and veg at eye height in the fridge - cherry tomatoes, mini cucumbers and snow peas are a great quick snack with humous or a handful of nuts
- The toasted sandwich maker and a blender are the teenager's best friend. Teach them how to make a quick smoothie - my daughter's favourite is milk, yoghurt, oats and frozen raspberries or mango. My son's fave is milk, weetbix, banana and milo. Great before or after sport if they don't want something solid in their stomach.
- Again leave left over pasta or stirfry at eye height so they can be reheated quickly
- If you don't want your kids to eat it - don't buy it!