Eating for teenagers
Am I imagining it, or are teenagers taller, cleverer and better looking than they were twenty years ago?
Every so often, under the guidance of their shorter stubbier parent, one of these young gods gangles into my clinic. Very often the complaint is poor energy and lack of concentration at school.
Boys in particular, with their beanstalk-like growth spurts, find it difficult to maintain blood sugar levels for daylong energy of body and mind. Low blood sugar levels mean poor concentration and a tendency to grab the highest-octane sugar-fest on offer. Teenage boys plus hormones plus sugar equals tears before bed-time (at least for Mum and Dad).
To improve energy, concentration levels and family relationships, there are two simple rules to follow. Firstly, eat every 2 to 3 hours, and secondly, every meal must contain some protein. Eating small meals more often will not put on weight, in fact this style of eating is recommended for preventing obesity. For those at school, this eating plan might look something like: 6.35 Breakfast 8.20 Snack before first lesson 10.20 morning tea 12.30 lunch 3.20 after school snack 6.30 dinner. Each school and family have different schedules, but usually something can be worked out to accommodate the regular small meals.
Next is to figure out what to eat. Teenagers can be picky when it comes to food, so it’s good to have a few options. Lunch and dinner are usually sorted, so here are some ideas for breakfast and snacks. Fruit, salad and vegies to be liberally added anywhere.
- Egg and toast, juice or milk
- Baked beans and toast, juice or milk
I am not a fan of breakfast cereals, but I know I am in the minority. My beef with cereals is that they are usually wheat (which is fine, but we tend to have plenty of wheat with biscuits, bread and pasta) as well, cereals contain very little protein, and most have way too much sugar. However, I’m not the one having a barney with your teenager at 6.30 on Tuesday morning. If it’s cereal that’s wanted, bung some fruit on it, and add a piece of toast with an egg or peanut butter. Speaking of peanut butter, have you tried other nut butters such as cashew or hazlenut? Very yum — good protein and you don’t need to add butter.
- Hard-boiled egg (peeled or unpeeled) lettuce leaf to wrap around, vita wheat or two, or small bread roll.
- Small can of tuna, salmon. Nowadays there are cutesy little cans of fish with bits and pieces added that appeal to most picky customers.
- Half a sandwich e.g. half a sandwich for morning tea, other half for after school. Must be sog-free e.g. chicken, ham.
Until the age of reason (23) most children prefer plastic cheese. Don’t fight it. A couple of Singles and a piece of fruit make a very fine snack.
In addition to this style of eating, I recommend a multivitamin tablet with breakfast — for teenage girls, a women’s multi, and for the boys, a men’s multi — to give a little extra zinc and zing to cope with those hormonal surges.