Do you struggle with keeping healthy choices on hand for your hungry teen? Does anyone else have a teen that opens the fridge and just stares blankly inside for something to eat, only shutting the door and rummaging through the pantry for some chips or something that comes in a package for a quick hunger fix?
Teenagers have a whole lot going on inside their sprouting bodies. They are not only physically active and mentally challenged daily, but they are also growing and changing by leaps and bounds. Keeping up with all of this activity requires a LOT of fuel. Three well-balanced meals per day are not enough to meet their caloric and nutritional needs – healthy snacks between meals are necessary to refill their tanks.
Feeding your teenagers healthy food in our current food culture is nothing short of a stiff challenge. All of those sweet, flavor enhanced, nutrient-lacking, addictive processed and packaged foods are marketed to them multiple times per day. But we moms are up for the challenge! You can do your part to raise smart eaters by having good, nutritious food on hand for your hungry teens and by teaching them how to prepare and feed themselves. Below are 20 ideas for you to stock in your fridge, but first, here’s a few suggestions to help you get started:
- First, teach them to eat well-balanced meals and snacks regularly to supply their bodies with what they need for physical and mental success and for growing into strong, healthy adults. Teach them the acronym CFPP – carbs, protein, fiber, and fat – the first one is easy to eat, the other three require more deliberation when preparing a meal or snack.
- Have a white board or other list posted in your kitchen or pantry with the healthy options that you have currently stocked in your kitchen. Update your board regularly.
- Teach them to make their own food – this is a life skill. Have on hand simple foods they can learn to prepare for themselves.
- Store all (or most) of the ingredients to make a particular snack or meal in the same general area, so they do not have to go searching for all they need. Then teach them where you will be keeping those ingredients.
- Make double and triple batches of your teen’s favorite foods whenever you cook, so you can store individual portions in your freezer and fridge for easy reheating. Teach your teen where the leftovers are stored, and write on your board what is available.
- Prepare your stocked fridge ahead. Block a couple of hours one morning a week to go to the grocery store to buy fresh food, and then chop, prepare, cook, and store food where your hungry teen can spot it. Show them where you store the prepared food, and list these items on your board.
- Accumulate LOTS of condiments. Choose the healthiest options available of your family’s favorites, so your teens can personalize their own foods. Don’t cringe if they smother their meal in BBQ, and just remember it is most important that they get the healthy food in their bodies.
- Utilize shortcuts. Most grocery stores have pre-chopped fruits and veggies, premade dips, and other premade healthy foods. Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are also an option. Even though I’m always on my soap box saying fresh is best (and that is true!), what is even better is that your teens get the nutritious food into their bodies. So, if prepared foods are what fits in with your lifestyle, choose the healthiest stores and options available and stock your fridge that way.
Keeping in mind these suggestions for success, below are 20 ideas for a well-stocked teenage fridge. Obviously, only supermom can have all 20 of these ideas on hand at all times. And since we’re going for a simple, healthy life, we’re not trying to be supermom. So, choose a few of these options that are your family’s favorites to have on hand all the time, and then choose one or two more to try each week. Always have your whiteboard updated with what you have stocked, so your teen can find the healthy options.
20 Ideas to Stock your Teenage Fridge –
Fruit with nut butters – Fruit is sweet, comes in nature’s packaging, and is filled with carbohydrates, micronutrients, and fiber. Have on hand nut butters for dipping and spreading to add a little protein and fat, making it a well-balanced snack.
Raw and baked veggies – Vegetables are crunchy, colorful, and can be eaten raw or easily baked into chips. They are fibrous micronutrient superfoods, and creating tasty chips out of them is no more difficult than chopping, tossing in a healthy oil and seasonings, and then baking until they reach your desired crunchiness. Serve with dips for added protein and fat.
Nachos – make your own potato or veggie chips, or try a healthy packaged version of chips by looking for gluten free, whole grain varieties with very few ingredients. Try lentil or bean chips, and those made with quinoa, flax, corn, rice, etc. Have a variety of shredded cheeses on hand for making nachos, so you can turn a carb heavy snack into a well-balanced snack with protein and fat.
Greek yogurt with trail mix – Store a container of trail mix (have them choose their combo or make different varieties every week) by the Greek yogurt in your fridge. Drizzle a little honey and add chopped fresh fruit on top if desired.
Meatballs – Prepare ahead different varieties of meatballs by mashing ground turkey, egg, seasonings, and diced fruit and veggies together, form balls, and then pan fry them in a little coconut oil. Our favorite is a turkey – apple – celery – sage combo. Have several condiments on hand for dipping.
Protein salads – Prepare ahead simple chicken, salmon, tuna, egg, or bean salads. Make with Greek yogurt instead of mayo for a creamy probiotic boost, and add chopped veggies and fruits as well as seasonings. Enjoy a scoop by itself, wrapped in a gluten free tortilla, or between two pieces of Canyon Bakehouse gluten free bread.
Pizza – Make doubles batches of a nutritious gluten free pizza crust topped with cheese, meats, and veggies. Freeze or refrigerate individual slices.
Baked sweet and white potatoes – Bake potatoes ahead of time, and store them in your fridge near all the fixings like Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, bacon bits, chopped onions and veggies, etc.
Sandwich/panini drawer – Create a drawer or basket on a shelf in your fridge for sandwich making. Include Canyon Bakehouse bread, sliced veggies, nitrate free sliced deli meat and cheese, and your teen’s favorite condiments. Mix it up by turning an ordinary sandwich into a Panini with the Breville Panini maker.
Trail mix shelf in your pantry – Make a space for containers of all types of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, gluten free pretzels, popcorn, dark chocolate, and shredded coconut. Include scoops and cups or bags, so your hungry teen can personalize his or her own well-balanced snack.
Smoothies – Teach your teen how to make a killer smoothie with healthy, strengthening ingredients: almond or coconut milk, frozen berries and fruit, spinach (if you can work it in), nut butters, and a protein powder like whey, egg, or vegan option like Sunwarrior protein. Avoid soy. Add cacao powder and gentle sweeteners if desired. Invest in a Magic Bullet or Nutri Bullet for easy transportable smoothie making.
Hearty cookies and bars – Use nut flours or nut butters and gentle sweeteners to make batches of cookies and bars that have necessary protein and fat but healthier sweeteners. Peanut butter and jelly bars, chocolate peanut butter bars, chocolate chip cookies, gutty putty, and raw almond cookies are a few options.
Hardboiled eggs – Hard boil a dozen eggs and create delicious snacks with seasonings and condiments. Teach your teen to make a mean deviled egg. Or serve cut up on a piece of gluten free bread. Omelet muffins are another easy make ahead egg snack.
Quesadilla drawer – Fill a drawer or basket on a shelf of your fridge with corn or gluten free tortillas, grated cheese, seasonings, diced chicken, mushrooms, green chiles, and veggies – all the ingredients to make this TexMex favorite.
Muesli – Make a big batch of muesli for breakfasts or snacks by covering gluten free rolled oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, and a gentle sweetener or stevia with almond or coconut milk, and let it soak overnight. Bake or dehydrate left overs to make granola.
Pigs in a blanket – Pancakes aren’t just for breakfast. Make an extra batch of pancakes, and warm up an Applegate Farms sausage link to roll in a pancake.
Bell and Evans gluten free chicken nuggets with dipping sauces – We love these gluten free chicken nuggets and tenders. Serve the nuggets with favorite condiments like BBQ or mustard, or roll up a tender in a gluten free wrap and include a variety of veggies like romaine lettuce, avocado, onion, tomato, and bell pepper. Or, cube a rotisserie chicken or any left over chicken or meat to be dipped and eaten as a finger food.