It is back to school time, and with that comes the daily packing of lunches, the need for quick meals before practice, and snacks on the go. I am often asked how to incorporate more healthy ingredients into meals and snacks for children, especially teens. There is usually enough fun snack and creative recipes floating around to get the attention of preschoolers, but focus on healthy food prep ideas for teens I find are less available. Helping our teens make healthy choices can be a challenge, partially because they have so much autonomy in their choices by this age and also because they tend to want food quickly.
A few tips to offer some healthy options when your teen heads to the kitchen.
- Use whole or sprouted grains. Sliced breads, pastas and even wraps come in whole grain and even sprouted grain varieties. Whole grains are cracked, crushed or rolled grain seeds while sprouted grains include the grain seeds whole. Both are packed with fiber and nutrients by retaining all parts of the grain seed (bran, germ and endosperm). Refined flours filter out the bran and germ.
- Beans are a great source of protein and fiber and are easy to add to salads, wraps, omelets, etc. Black, garbanzo, kidney, white are all bean varieties to try.
- Add veggies to everything and anything. The idea of eating a cup of broccoli on its own may not seem appealing to the average teen. Instead, add vegetables here and there – chop up broccoli, asparagus, peppers and tomato in an omelet or burrito; add spinach and tomato to a sandwich; add vegetables to chili; add zucchini, broccoli, tomato and carrots with whole grain pasta for a hot or cold pasta salad.
- Prep ahead of time. Keep chopped veggies, rinsed beans, shredded cheese, precooked whole grain pasta, lean turkey/ chicken in the fridge ready to use. Let your teen be the chef, while you are the behind the scenes sous-chef who prepped all the ingredients ahead of time. Sandwich, omelet, burrito, pasta salad, green salad – all ready in minutes by grabbing bits from all of those at hand, healthy ingredients.
I’m including two recipes that have been tried and true in my house. The vegetable chili is crock pot ready, and you can freeze leftovers for quick meals later. The egg and bean burrito is great for any meal or a snack and you can spice it up for your own tastes. Both of these recipes can be customized to include you favorite veggies and can be vegan if you prefer, just skip the turkey and egg and add a second variety of beans to give it more interest if you like.
1 lb ground turkey thigh meat
1 sweet red or yellow pepper
½ cup chopped onion
2-3 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried crushed oregano
2 14oz. cans diced tomato
1 15 ounce can black beans
Shredded cheddar (optional)
Cook the ground turkey, then add cooked meat with all the cut up/ chopped veggies and spices to crock pot. Cook on low 8 hours or high setting 5 hours. Optional to top with shredded cheddar when serving.
Vegetable & Bean Burrito
Chopped tomato, red peppers, onion, asparagus (jalapeno optional)
1 large whole or sprouted grain wrap
Sauté veggies until onions become cloudy, add beaten egg and beans. Cook scrambled egg mixture. Warm the wrap in covered pan or microwave. Add scrambled egg mixture to center of warm wrap, add tobasco to taste, top with shredded cheese, then fold.
In health and wellness,