Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Teenagers

Sandwich

Teenagers today are facing hectic and busy schedules so we’re going to focus on healthy school lunch ideas for teenagers in our post today.

Between early starts to their school days, homework, sports, music lessons, and social time, well, eating healthy can quickly go by the wayside. These school days often mean teens are eating on the run and are often eating foods of convenience rather than foods that offer nutrition.

When you add in a fast food restaurant or coffee shop on every corner, it gets even harder to help teens stick to wise food choices to give their bodies everything they need. But in today’s busy, pressured world of screen time, media influences, and increasingly on-the-go meals, helping adolescents to make proper food choices is critical.

What do teens need for a health school lunch?

Nutritional needs for teens don’t vary drastically from those of adults, but they are very critical during this time of physical growth and brain development. (Yes, we promise, your teen’s brain is developing even if all evidence suggests otherwise!)

Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind for your teenager’s dietary choices:

  • Calories: This is the starting point for determining what and how much your adolescent should be eating. In general, teen girls need 1800-2400 calories per day, while boys require 2000-3200 calories. Active teens will need a caloric intake at the high end of these ranges.
  • Proper Protein: Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscles and tissues. Teens need about 45-60 grams of protein each day. The important part, though, is to be sure the protein is coming through good choices.
  • Proteins that are high in saturated fats, such as cheeseburgers, are not suitable for the body. Lean meat, fish, nuts, and legumes are all excellent options for protein intake.
  • Proper Carbohydrates: This macronutrient is an energy powerhouse when delivered in the right form. Your teenager’s body needs carbs to have enough energy for her daily tasks and appropriate growth and development. But most of what teens reach for in the carbohydrate world are simple carbs – soda, juice, candy, etc.

What they need, as we all do, are complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and starchy
vegetables. These are the healthy choices that help with weight management and prevention of type 2 diabetes.

  • Proper Fats: Your teen’s body needs to get about 30% of its calories from fat, but it is vital that these calories come from the right sources. Saturated fats, those that are typically solid at room temperature, are dangerous for the body’s heart and arteries.

Animal products like meat and cheese often are high in saturated fats. Unsaturated fats usually come from plant products, such as nuts,                   olives, and avocados. These choices are healthy additions to your teen’s diet..

What happened to my child’s healthy habits?

As kids get older, busier and more independent, their food choices and healthy eating habits often fall by the wayside. They are away from home most of the day and have significant social and peer influences with them during that time. Your teen might be in classes, sports and work at a job all in one day!

Teenager’s eating habits can get off track in several ways; they can consume too many calories, too few calories, or the wrong calories altogether. Girls, in particular, are often drawn to fad diets that restrict their caloric intake or encourage them to skip meals, leading to many health concerns.

Social media and the entertainment industry clearly hold sway over teen food choices and body image issues. This influence is not a new phenomenon, but it seems to be ever-present now more than at any other time in history.

Eating Sandwich

Teen food habits matter . . . a lot!

Teens have a lot going on physically, socially, and developmentally. This is a critical time of growth and development, and proper nutrition is key to good health during these years.

Skipping meals is a common problem among teens, but adolescents who skip meals are likely to experience headaches, have difficulty concentrating, and often become irritable – as if these hormonal years don’t have enough of that!

It is essential that teenagers eat at regular intervals to maintain the energy and focus they need. But how do you keep a busy teen adequately fueled when they are always on the go?

Ideas for a healthy lunch plan

As school gets started again, this is a great time to plan out some healthy school lunch ideas with your teen. Here are some excellent food choices for your teen’s lunches and snacks. These will provide your growing kiddos with everything they need to stay nutritionally on target.

  1. Apple slices and whole grain crackers with peanut butter. This lunch option includes a lot of flavors, fiber, and nutrients for your child and can be surprisingly filling. And this is a lunch that is easy to make gluten-free.
  2. Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and granola. This choice gives your teen a good dose of calcium and, depending on the brand of yogurt, some beneficial probiotics as well. Store-bought granola can have a lot of added sugars, so use it sparingly or consider making your own.
  3. Salads are essential. Start with some greens, like lettuce, kale, or spinach. Add some protein such as beans, nuts, salmon, or chicken and then whatever veggies your child likes. Include a small container of salad dressing, again watching out for those added sugars and saturated fats, and your teen will have a tasty lunch that is high in fiber and protein. By choosing proteins and fats carefully, your salad easily can fit a vegan or vegetarian eating plan.
  4. Veggies and pretzels and hummus. Snap peas, bell peppers, celery, carrots, and cucumbers all go great with some tasty hummus. Made from chickpeas, spices, and olive oil, hummus is loaded with protein and flavor which often helps non-veggie eaters to be more willing to eat them. Wrap them all up in a tortilla, and your teen has a tasty, healthy wrap.

You’ve got this!

Feeding your teen can feel like a never-ending saga. Either they’re always hungry, or they’re refusing to eat because they don’t have time. But healthy lunches are easily within reach, even with limited time, and it is well worth the investment in your child’s health.

If you have any concerns about your teenager’s diet or eating habits, feel free to reach out to the doctors at Balanced Care today. We’d be honored to be part of your family’s health journey.

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