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Is there a teenage boy in your family? If so, you may be struggling to come up with mealtime solutions that meet his needs – and yours. (Of course it’s important to help girls eat healthy meals too!  But we’re talking about boys, since they become tremendous growing and eating machines between the ages of 13 and 19, when they put on as much as 50 percent of their ideal body weight and can easily be hungry every three hours.)  It’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining about his seemingly endless hunger, but it’s far more effective to recognize this important stage of growth and development and do as much as you can to help him eat right.

Here at Oldways we celebrate delicious, affordable traditional foods that you can easily make available to teenagers. Consider these tips to help keep things healthy at home.

Teach Your Son to Cook Simple Things. When asked in surveys if they would rather eat fast food or prepare something for themselves at home, teenage boys indicate that they don’t know their way around the kitchen. Don’t make assumptions! Kitchen skills, no matter how simple, need to be learned. Help your son become autonomous by showing him how to peel onions, chop carrots and celery, wash lettuce, open a can of tuna and drain it, crack and scramble eggs, cook pasta, and make simple stir frys.

Be a Smart Shopper. Rely on whole grains, canned beans, and fresh and frozen vegetables to plan and prepare easy meals that will provide satiety and create plenty of tasty leftovers. for some helpful suggestions.

The Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan offers plenty of easy recipes for a whole month of easy and delicious dinners.

Create a Snack Factory. Make it easy for your son to come home to a healthy snack. Fill a basket on the kitchen counter with whole grain crackers, rice cakes, Melba toast, whole wheat pretzels, whole wheat bread and peanut butter. In a clear rectangular box with a tight fitting lid (the kind lettuce mixes come in works perfectly) put together a selection of hummus, baba ghanouj, sliced cheese, olives, etc. and show it to him. Keep yogurt and apples in the refrigerator, too.

Be Flexible. While the family meal is a great idea, allow mealtimes to vary when the world of afterschool sports, clubs, music lessons, and a number of other commitments come along. The kind of food that’s available in the house has a greater impact on healthy food intake than sitting around a table.  Keep meals simple and make things that can easily be reheated, such as pasta and rice dishes, chilies, and vegetable stews.

Cook when it isn’t Dinner Time. Get ahead of the game whenever you can. Cook rice, bulgur, or oatmeal to keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Chop vegetables, make dips and dressings to have on hand. Roast turkey breasts or chicken or bake tofu ahead of time.

By example, show your son what a healthy diet looks like. Being a teenager isn’t easy, but coming home to good food – and the measure of comfort, energy, and support that it brings – is vitally important. He won’t pass this way again, and you have a great opportunity to show him a path he can follow all his life.

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