When your children become teenagers, their eating habits and appetite may change dramatically. Your picky son becomes ravenously hungry all the time and your junk-food-loving daughter is suddenly consumed with healthy eating. As they grow, their nutrition needs will change, too. It's important that teens get enough vitamins and nutrients to grow into strong, healthy adults. Be prepared to accommodate your teens' new dinnertime habits with a selection of healthful, tasty, filling meals.
Iron and Vitamins
Teens are no different from anyone else -- they still need their five-a-day servings of fruits and vegetables for optimal health and to get the vitamins, iron and antioxidants found in these foods. Don't force your teens to eat greens they don't like (although green vegetables contain the highest concentration of iron); instead, saute tastier veggies such as corn, red peppers, potatoes and squash and drizzle with a light creamy dressing. If you're lucky enough to have teens who willingly eat greens, serve them salad-style: steam or saute broccoli and zucchini and mix them with bacon bits, nuts and scrambled eggs. They'll get a protein-loaded meal without breaking a sweat. Don't forget baked potatoes: filling, economical and nutritious, potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) contain energizing carbohydrates and can be topped with almost anything.
Swap your teens' morning white toast for whole wheat or seven-grain and they may not even notice, especially if you add a buttery-tasting olive oil spread. At lunch, spray butter-flavored cooking spray in whole-wheat pita pockets and stuff with ground beef, lettuce, shredded cheese and chopped tomatoes. Grill it until the cheese melts slightly and you've got healthy, hearty taco-like sandwiches for your teens that contain much-needed calcium and protein in addition to whole grains. At dinnertime, swap your white pasta for whole wheat and make spaghetti with meat sauce. Serve with a side of whole grain garlic toast sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
The teen years are your young adults' last chance to build a strong osteal foundation for the rest of their lives, so make them count. Melted low-fat cheese on toast will appeal to most teenagers, as will homemade macaroni and cheese. If you make your own sauces or ice cream, use 2 percent milk fortified with extra calcium. Cook desserts and pies with fat-free plain Greek yogurt, an excellent source of calcium. Avoid full-fat cheese and milk when cooking; their low- and nonfat counterparts are just as rich in calcium without the calories.
Protein is essential for proper brain functioning, muscle growth and even healthy nails, skin and hair. Your teens need it to continue growing strong. Red meat and eggs are two of the most common (and tastiest) protein sources for teens and are versatile enough to be incorporated into many different dishes. Extra-lean ground beef burgers, for example, provide a powerful dose of protein, as do just a couple of eggs any style. If you have a vegetarian teen, try soy burgers, beans or lentils. If your teens like fish, go with super-healthy options like salmon or tilapia. No matter how you cook them, your teens will reap the benefits of protein.
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