Healthy eating for teenagers
The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and development, so a healthy balanced diet is particularly important. Healthy, active young people can have large appetites. If you’re a teenager, it’s important to eat well-balanced meals, rather than too many snacks that are high in fat, sugar or salt.
What to eat
You should eat a healthy balanced diet that matches your energy needs. This should be made up of the four main food groups of the Eatwell Guide:
- fruit and vegetables
- potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods
- beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other proteins
- dairy and alternatives
Fruit and vegetables
All age groups are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Research shows that five portions a day can help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. Fruit and vegetables are also full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are low in fat.
A portion is about 80g. Examples of a portion include:
- one medium-sized piece of fruit, such as an apple, orange, banana or pear
- two small fruits, such as kiwi, satsuma or plums
- one large slice of pineapple or melon
- one tablespoon of dried fruit
- three heaped tablespoons of fresh or frozen vegetables
- one glass (approximately 150ml) of fresh fruit juice or a smoothie
Dried fruit and fruit juices or smoothies can each be counted as only one portion a day, however much you have. Both dried fruit and juices should be taken with a meal as the high sugar content can be damaging to teeth otherwise.
Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods
Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta are a good source of energy, fibre and B vitamins and should be used as the basis for meals. Choose higher-fibre, wholegrain varieties such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or by leaving the skin on potatoes.
Wholegrain food contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food, and often more of other nutrients. We also digest wholegrain food more slowly and can help us feel full for longer. They also help prevent constipation, protect against some cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Starchy foods are also low in fat, though the butter or creamy sauces that are often added to them can have a higher fat
Healthy snacking: Switching the “bad” for the “good”.
It is important to point out that there are no good or bad foods. Everyone enjoys a bit of pizza or ice cream every now and then, and there is absolutely no shame in that. A continuous overindulgence in such foods can become problematic however, so here’s a couple of simple swaps that may be better for your health in the long run.
- Ice Cream:
Instead of consuming churned fat and sugar by the pint, you can swap out for a much more refreshing frozen yogurt, fruit sorbet, or a dairy-free version. All of the alternatives are lower in calories on average, and offer a vast array of probiotics, vitamins and minerals, which the classic simply doesn’t. Paired with some fresh fruit and nuts, the frozen treats can become real superfoods.
Cauliflower base, thin crust, low-fat cheese, skipping the cheese altogether, throwing on all the fresh veggies, and avoiding the cuts of meat richest in saturated fats (sausage, bacon, meatballs, etc) can help to turn our favourite night-in cheat meal into a significantly healthier option.
Chicken is significantly lower in saturated fats, therefore making it a healthier alternative to the usual cheeseburger. Veggie burgers are also an equally delicious option, with a variety of possibilities including meat-replacement burgers, veggie patties, portobello burgers, etc. They offer a huge range of vitamins which are not typically present in the beloved cheeseburger.
Whilst crisps are delicious, they’re also full to the brim with sodium and fat. Some healthier alternatives might include baked crisps, veggie chips, air popped popcorn and rice crackers. All of those options offer a decrease in sodium levels in comparison to the original, whilst offering more fibre, protein, and potentially vitamins B and K, as well as iron.
- Fizzy drinks:
Some alternatives to sugary fizzy drinks may be fruit juices, smoothies, shakes, malt drinks, infused water, and whilst many of these will still be full to the brim with sugar, as fruit is full of natural sugars, they’re also full of natural vitamins, minerals, fibre- all of which are missing from the beloved can of pop.
Chocolate hits the sweet tooth like no other, but between the dairy, saturated fat, sugar and whatever additives may be thrown in for good measure, it’s not at all the healthy snack we’d like it to be. Instead, try satisfying your cravings with dark chocolate, cacao nibs, carob, dairy-free choc, or simply fruit.
What exactly is meal prepping?
Meal prep is the cooking of large portions of food once or twice per week. This is particularly useful for students, and young working adults, due to the fact that we often feel as though making food after a long day at work or school can just seem very daunting. Having food prepped eliminates that issue entirely.
But now that you know what it is, how it works, and why you’d do it… what to cook? We’ve got you covered with a couple of simple, yet delicious, recipes that you can throw together super quickly and have them prepped for a couple of days.
Meal Prep for Breakfast:
Brekky Egg Muffins:
- Combine 6 eggs with omelette toppings of choice (bacon and spinach, mushroom and cheese, ham and cheese, red peppers and onion- as some delicious combinations, but feel free to remix as you please.)
- Pour said mixture into a muffin tray. Use cooking spray or a bit of oil to avoid your muffins sticking to the tray.
- Stick your tray in an oven preheated to 190 degrees (gas mark 5) for about 15 minutes.
- Serve them up instantly, or refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. They keep for about 3 days in the fridge, therefore to avoid food waste, only make the amount you’ll actually be capable of eating within that span of time.
- Start off your American take on a Mexican dish by cooking and preparing the ingredients you’d actually like in your breakfast wrap. We suggest the classics- sausage, egg, hash brown- but feel free to substitute those ingredients for vegetarian/vegan alternatives, like scrambled tofu, veggie sausage and HASH BROWNS.
- Once your ingredients are cooked and cooled, stick ’em in a tortilla (opt for whole wheat if you’re worried about getting your fibre and protein) and wrap them up tightly.
- Once wrapped, stick them in some freezer paper, and a zip-lock bag. Make sure to get as much air out of the bag to avoid freezer burn.
- These keep in the freezer for up to 3 months, so you don’t have to worry about eating them all within a week!
- Top with brown sauce, avocado or a sauce of choice and enjoy!
Lunch time Prep:
Cheese and broccoli pasta:
This one is a little bit more advanced, but nothing you wouldn’t be able to manage.
- Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan, add about a tablespoon of salt, and your pasta of choice.
- In a separate saucepan, cook some broccoli to your desired texture (firmer broccoli is better for this recipe, so it doesn’t fall apart and get lost in the sauce.)
- Finally, in a small saucepan melt about two tablespoons of butter over a very low heat. Once the butter is melted, add about two tablespoons of all purpose flour and stir quickly. This should form a thick, paste-like consistency.
- Grab a big glass of milk and stir the milk into the paste little by little. If you pour it in all at once the sauce will go clumpy. If you like a thicker sauce, you may not have to use all of the milk for your sauce.
- Turn up the heat a little and let the flour do it’s magic in thickening up the bechamel.
- Remove from the heat and stir in your seasoning and cheese of choice, we recommend salt, pepper, and a cheddar-mozzarella combination.
- Combine your cooked pasta with your sauce and broccoli. If you’re feeling extra protein, you can add a protein source of choice into the mix (we recommend meat-free alternatives like tofu, or Quorn chicken pieces, or simply a bit of chicken or bacon.)
Buddha bowl made easy:
- On a large oven tray, place chicken (or a meat-free alternative) along with some veggies of choice (we recommend red peppers, onions, mushrooms, and sweet potato for this one.)
- Make a marinade using olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, mixed herbs, and for an added kick a bit of cayenne pepper.
- Pour your marinade onto the veggies and protein of choice and toss thoroughly.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and protein is cooked through.
- In a saucepan, boil your grain of choice- this could be rice, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.
- Divide up your cooked grains between containers, and top with a portion of the cooked veggies and protein. Drizzle with a condiment of choice- we recommend soy sauce and sriracha.
- Cooked poultry stays good in the fridge for about 3 days so if you are making this in a rather big batch please make sure to either freeze it on the day, or consume within the three days.
Glazed Chicken and Rosemary Potatoes:
- To make the glaze, combine agave syrup or honey, barbecue sauce, and soy sauce.
- On a large oven tray, lay out your protein source of choice (chicken for this recipe, but you can absolutely replace that with tofu, seitan, tempeh, or Quorn alternatives) and spread the glaze over the top.
- On a second tray, lay out baby potatoes (skins on or off, that’s up to your personal preference) and drizzle oil over them. Then toss in some rosemary and salt.
- Stick both trays in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden and your chicken (or alternative source of protein) is cooked through and tender.