by Beck Whitehead
My first ‘family dinner’ at my fiancé’s house eight years ago left me in a bit of a shock. My partner is one of five offspring, four of whom are boys...or rather, testosterone-raging, athletic teenagers! Conversely, I am one of three girls. You can probably guess the events that took place on this evening were somewhat different to those experienced on an average night in my family household!
The most notable experience was the ‘feeding frenzy’ that occurred from 4pm to 11pm right before my eyes. The fridge door was routinely opened and closed by each teenager… on the search for something appealing and different...since their last fridge viewing. Packets of chips, shapes, sweet biscuits, rice bubble bars, yoghurt tubs, the odd apple, juice boxes, mars bars and so on were hurled across the dining room similar to an Olympian performing discus.
Sound familiar? This characteristic ‘feeding frenzy’ is actually a very common occurrence in many households.
Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and maturation. The requirement for energy and almost all nutrients are significantly increased. From the age of 13 years, boys generally accrue 20% of their adult stature and 50% of their adult weight.
The daily energy requirement for boys aged between 14-18 years with light activity levels ranges from 2400-2900 calories. Young males who are very active have energy requirements that may exceed 3800 calories!
What a teenage boy needs to eat to be satisfied
A snapshot of the daily food intake required to satiate a 17-year old boy with light activity levels may look like the following (2800 calories):
Porridge with milk, honey and sliced banana
Wholegrain toast with peanut butter
1/2 cup of juice
Carrot & walnut muffin
Tub of yoghurt
Large wholegrain roll with salad & chicken
Piece of fruit
Multigrain crackers with dip, cheese & carrot
Lamb tenderloins with vegetables & cous cous
Bowl of fruit salad
2 small scoops ice-cream/tub of yoghurt
Unfortunately, the reality is that the diet of very few teenage boys would resemble the healthy meal combination above. Generally, adolescents tend to have diets that are high in sweet, processed, fried and fast foods. This is because adolescence often heralds a change in eating habits due to a more independent life style, increased socialization, part-time work, study demands, sporting commitments, more risk-taking behavior/experimentation and so on.
To fuel the large energy demands, one of the most common behaviours is regular snacking. Whilst this is not such a bad thing, curbing this trend to ensure snacking is nutritious is the challenge. Coupled with this, in most cases, there is a lack of effort boys in particular will engage in to prepare a nutritious snack. The key to having teenagers eating healthy snacks is to have them readily available - one of our best tips is to always ensure you have a platter of cut up vegies in the fridge or sitting on the bench. It will disappear before you know it.
So consider the following Super Seven Snacks - they're not just nutritious, but budget-friendly as well:
1. Mixed berry smoothie, low fat milk, yoghurt & berries
Hint: Freeze portioned frozen berries (1/2 cup) in snap-lock bags
2. Baked beans on wholegrain toast
Hint: Stock pantry with small cans (130g). Position at eye level
3. Homemade Bircher muesli
Hint: Soak natural muesli with low fat yoghurt (not cream). Portion in small containers in fridge
4. Popcorn, No added sugar/salt
Hint: Replace chips with small popcorn packets
5. Canned tuna on wholegrain crackers
Hint: Stock pantry with small cans (95g). Position at eye level
6. Vegetables with homemade dip
Hint: Cut batons of carrots, celery, capsicum. Store in containers or have displayed open in fridge or on counter. Blend together canned chickpeas (220g), 1 tbs yoghurt, 1 tsp garlic, tsp lemon juice to create your own nutritious hummus.
7. Fruit loaf (1-2 slices wholegrain) with ricotta/scrape of jam
Hint: Freeze in portions (2 slices in snap-lock bags)
Build on this Super Seven Snack list as a family and position centrally in your fridge as a subtle prompt to ravenous teenage boys. You'll have them filling up on nutritious foods in no time!
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