Teenagers require different nutrients than adults and younger children because their bodies are developing and changing dramatically. Teens experience the last growth spurt from ages 15 to 18, so providing them with healthy meals is important. This will help them create healthy eating habits. Teens have busy schedules, so creating a meal plan will assist with better nutrition.
Healthy diets include all the food groups in the nutritional pyramid. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, grains and dairy products are needed in the diet. Avoid high-fat foods, sodium and sugar whenever possible. Growing teens should consume six to eight servings of complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, whole grains and beans, daily. Teens need additional iron in their diet, which is found in meat, poultry and fish. Teen males require 12 mg of iron daily and females require 15 mg.
Teens tend to skip breakfast, an important part of their nutrition. Skipping breakfast can lead to binge eating later in the day. Encourage teens to eat breakfast by having high-fibre, low-sugar cereal -- with low-fat milk -- available. Add fresh fruit for additional flavour.
Lunch should include lean meat and fresh vegetables, such as salad, carrots and celery. Sandwiches are acceptable with whole-grain bread, lean meat with low-sodium content, and low-fat cheese. Add fresh vegetables and fruit to the lunch for snacking later in the day. Using fresh ingredients for lunch will treat teens' bodies well and increase their energy.
Dinner should include lean meat, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and dairy products. Chicken burritos are a good dinner choice, since they include chicken, low-fat cheese, refried beans, tomatoes and lettuce. Create a special meal for your family that includes everyone's favourites, such as chicken chow mein with broccoli slaw mix, onions, peppers, low-sodium teriyaki sauce, and angel-hair pasta. This meal takes about 20 minutes to make and provides good nutrition.
Plan for the unexpected because there will always be days that the family is going in several directions, and meals need to be eaten at different times. Serving leftovers can help in this situation, but sometimes you won't be able to get home to eat. Select a restaurant that offers several choices of lean meats. Salads are a good choice, but some dressings have a lot of fat. Take a healthy snack with you when going out for an extended period of time.