Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Feel like you can’t make food fast enough? Or maybe you pack a super nutritious lunch for them and it comes back home barely touched? Is the fridge raided the minute your teen comes home?
You are not alone! Fuelling an active adolescent can be a full time job! When you combine the demands of school, studying, school sports, competitive sports with growth and development, keeping up with the food supply can be a real struggle.
Although adolescents are concerned about health, their view of health surrounds physical appearance and body image. Social desirability and social norms about food, taste and convenience guide their food choices. This means that what their friends eat, how much they eat and their own body satisfaction play a huge role in what and how much they will eat at school.
It is very common for teens to not eat at school, whether it is because they are busy or due to peer pressure or just don’t feel like what is in their lunch. This results in hungry teens arriving home to devour anything and everything and usually not making very nutritious choices. It also means your teen might be showing up for training under fuelled, placing them at greater risk of injury and underperforming.
How can we mitigate this you ask? Here are my top tips:
Get your teen involved in food selection, if they chose it they are more likely to eat it. Get them in the kitchen packing their lunches or at least helping you with the task
Ensure they have nutrient dense food for both breaks. Their brains are working hard, they need food through the day to support brain function and physical activity at school and after
What you need for a healthy, nutritious lunch are:
A source of good quality protein: fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, lean meat, legumes, tofu. Can be eaten on its own or in a sandwich, wrap or as leftovers (hot food containers are awesome for this)
Complex carbohydrates: wholemeal pasta, brown rice, multigrain bread or wrap, quinoa, potato or sweet potato provide energy for the brain and fibre for the gut. White bread and pasta are burnt quickly and won't last long
Colour: a fruit and some vegetables. Vegetables can be in the form of raw veggie sticks to snack on, salad added to the sandwich or wrap, a salad or leftovers
Dairy: long life milk or a yoghurt. Teens are building their bone mass, they need 3.5 serves of dairy a day; a yoghurt makes for a great snack. For active teen, choosing a high protein yoghurt such as Greek yoghurt will provide both calcium and protein
Fun food: we all enjoy those foods that taste wonderful even though they don’t provide much nutrition. A small fun food makes that nutritious lunch box just a little more inviting.
Make sure the lunch is packed in an insulated bag with a couple of ice blocks to so the food tastes good and is safe to eat, especially on hot days.
Tried the above and still struggling to get your teen to eat at school? Might be time to catch up and have a look together at what are the challenges and ways to support you both. Stop the arguments over lunch boxes, reach out today.