During the teenage years, food is important. Your children are not only growing but learning how to make healthy choices about food. Getting them used to eating homemade meals filled with healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables can prepare them to make healthy choices in a college cafeteria. Involve your teen in choosing recipes and grocery shopping so she'll learn to read labels and plan a balanced meal.
Breakfast is an essential meal for teenagers to eat to be focused in school, but many skip this meal. Filling their plates with tasty foods they'll like may inspire teenagers to stop at the breakfast table before heading out the door. Make whole wheat pancakes or waffles from a mix, adding chocolate chips or chopped pecans to make them more enticing. For a protein-heavy breakfast that she can eat on the go, make a sandwich by filling an English muffin with turkey bacon, tomato, and fried or hard-boiled eggs. Teens may also enjoy these foods so much they'll prepare them for an after-school snack.
If they visit Mexican fast-food restaurants after school, teens may consider burritos to be junk food. But homemade burritos are an easy way to get teenagers to eat healthy proteins and vegetables. Saute lean turkey or beef with taco seasonings, or make veggie burritos using only refried beans as the base. Fill the center of a whole wheat or spinach tortilla with meat and beans, followed by chopped lettuce and tomatoes, roasted peppers, shredded cheese, and guacamole; or let each teenager construct his own perfect burrito. Roll up the tortillas and enjoy.
For some teenagers, eating a green vegetable is as dreaded as a pop quiz. Hiding vegetables underneath flavorful sauce will make them more palatable. Saute or grill eggplant, peppers and zucchini and toss them with any type of pasta you like, then mix in jarred tomato or Alfredo sauce. To make lasagna kids will love, layer these vegetables between layers of noodles, mozzarella, and both tomato and Alfredo sauces. In summer, add vegetables to a bowl of cheese tortellini and mix it together with salad dressing.
Burgers and Fries
While fast-food burgers and fries may be dripping in fat, homemade versions can be a healthy source of nutrients for a teenager. Buy preformed meat patties to throw on the grill, or mix up your own using lean beef. For a vegetarian twist on burgers, marinate portabella mushrooms in salad dressing and grill them until the mushrooms have grill marks. Top burgers with roasted red peppers and cheese. Make oven fries by slicing potatoes into wedges, tossing them with olive oil and salt, and baking them for about 45 minutes in a 400-degree oven until they're soft and starting to turn brown.
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.