Pssst….No matter if you’ve ever struggled with feeding teens and tweens or know that ONE day you will, these expert tips & easy recipes will help YOU keep your sanity AND nourish your kids well!

6 Secrets to Feeding Teens & Tweens + Easy Recipes They'll Love! | Get expert tips and teen/tween approved recipes @thespicyrd www.eastewart.com

Just when I thought I had it all figured out when it comes to feeding my kids, they did that annoying joyous {insert just a hint of sarcasm here} thing and turned into teens.

Before you start thinking there’s nothing good about this, I’m here to tell you, at least on the feeding front, there’s just as much good as there is “not so good.” And, for the “not so good” parts, I’ve enlisted the help of family nutrition experts to share their own challenges along with their own secrets to feeding teens and tweens. Let’s get started!

Feeding Teens and Tweens: Expert Tips & Easy Recipes They’ll Love

No.1 School starts way too early. What should I feed my teens & tweens when they aren’t hungry {Or are too rushed!} for breakfast?

Katie Morford, author of Rise & Shine: Better Breakfast for Busy Mornings, and mom of 3 teens {her eldest started college this year!} says this became an issue for her two older daughters when they started high school.

Her solution? “Have something ready they can grab on their way out the door. If I have a smoothie in a to-go cup, or a little jar of yogurt parfait, or an egg sandwich, they usually go for it.”

And Janice Bissex, one of the super cool Meal Makeover Moms, totally relates to this dilemma too. “The most frustrating thing for me when my daughters were tweens/teens was them saying they weren’t hungry in the morning and wanting to run off to school without breakfast. That would not work for this dietitian mom!”

This led to the creation of her nourishing & delicious “grab and go” granola bar that’s not only tween/teen-approved but mom-approved as well.

No. 2 It’s not cool to pack a lunch or take a lunch box to school anymore, but the school lunch options aren’t very nutritious {or don’t taste good}.

Jill Castle, childhood nutrition expert, mother of 4, and author of Just the Right Byte blog, has some great advice on this topic! First, after her teens refused to take a thermos, let alone a lunch box, to school, she tried letting them buy lunch for a while {it’s always worth a try!}, but her kids ended up getting tired of the school lunches, or not eating enough to fuel them for the rest of the day.

Jill’s solution? She sat down and talked with her kids to devise a plan that worked for everyone. And, what’s that, you wonder? Purchasing school lunch 1 x a week, then packing a simple teen/tween-friendly lunch the rest of the week featuring sandwiches or wraps with lots of veggies, fruit, and water.

For more of Jill and her teens’ school lunch solutions, check it this great post: Trouble With My Teen’s School Lunch.

TRY MY OWN TEEN/TWEEN-APPROVED BROWN BAG LUNCH: MANGO CHICKEN SALAD WRAPS

Teen and Tween approved brown bag school lunch! Mango Chicken Salad Wraps | Recipe by EA Stewart, The Spicy RD, at The Food Network's Healthy Eats Blog

No. 3 After-school sports and activities keep my teens and tweens busy. What should they eat to stay fueled until dinner???

Liz Weiss, the other fabulous mom and nutrition expert from Meal Makeover Moms, packs “mini meals” for her sons to nosh on after school and before dinner. Her teen son’s “go to” meals include a balance of complex, fiber-rich carbs (whole grain bread + apple slices or bananas) for quick energy, plus healthy fats and protein for staying power until dinner time.

TRY MY OWN TEEN/TWEEN-APPROVED AFTER-SCHOOL SNACK: MEDITERRANEAN FETA & QUINOA EGG MUFFINS 

Packed w/ protein & complex carbs, these Mediterranean Feta & Quinoa Egg Muffins are a healthy grab-and-go after-school snack that's teen and tween approved! | Recipe @thespicyrd www.eastewart.com

No. 4 I know it’s important to sit down to dinner as a family, but HELP, between all the after-school activities and homework, there’s no time {or desire} for this!

Although I’ve yet to experience resistance to family dinner time, I’m sure it will come up one of these days, so I LOVE these posts from Jill and Katie about how they have handled their own family dinner struggles and have made this oh-so-important ritual “non-negotiable”.

Bottom line? If family dinner time is important to you (I hope so!), there may be a trial and error period to determine what works best for you and your family.

Ultimately, I think it’s one of the most important things you can do, not necessarily from a nutrition standpoint, but from enjoying this precious family time together and keeping the lines of communication open with your kids. In other words, #justdoit!

TRY MY OWN TEEN/TWEEN-APPROVED FAMILY DINNER: RAINBOW ROTISSERIE CHICKEN SALAD W/ AVOCADO & HONEY MUSTARD DRESSING

This quick and easy Rainbow Rotisserie Chicken Salad w/ Avocado & Honey Mustard Dressing is a hit with my teenagers for a busy weeknight dinner! | Recipe @thespicyrd www.eastewart.com

No. 5 My kids are growing like weeds! What can I feed them on a healthy diet without going broke???

In addition to sharing her school lunch and family dinner tips, Jill also has some excellent advice on what to feed growing teens and tweens in this post, 7 Ways to Support Your Teen’s Growth Spurt.

According to Jill, key nutrients for growing teens are protein, calcium + vitamin D for healthy bones. If you’re concerned your teen or tween isn’t getting enough calcium, check out Jill’s calcium e-book for creative ways to get more of this important nutrient in your child’s diet.

And one of my own secrets for feeding my teens (without going broke!) is to swap nutritious and economical beans and legumes for meat-based protein whenever possible. I’ve shared ’em before, but I’ll share ’em again because these Crunchy Lentil Tacos w/ Feta Guacamole are always a huge hit with both my kids, so be sure to try them!

Easy, delicious, and budget friendly recipe for growing teens and tweens! Crunch Lentil Tacos w/ Avocado Feta Guacamole | Recipe @thespicyrd www.eastewart.com

No. 6 My teens and tweens are becoming so independent. How can I help them make healthier choices while still keeping their independence?

Sally Kuzemchak, mom of 2 kids and author of the popular blog Real Mom Nutrition, lays it out like it is {and I totally respect this!} “First, you have to accept that your kids will eat junk food when they’re with their friends. FACT. I can’t spend time stressing about that or trying to control what he does at all times.

“I don’t shame my son for these choices either, but we do talk about balance and about how food makes him feel.”

Sally’s solution? She makes sure to stock “dependably healthy” food at home and try to make his main meals and snacks count regarding nutrients, including fruits and vegetables, whenever possible.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Try this super simple Back-to-School Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake {a favorite of Sally’s son} for a nourishing meal your tween or teen will love!

TRY MY OWN TEEN/TWEEN-APPROVED “HEALTHY JUNK FOOD”: PEANUT BUTTER SWEET POTATO TEFF COOKIES W/ WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS 

Let’s chat!

  1. Do you have a teen or tween living with you now? If so, what are your biggest challenges in feeding them? And what are your best tips?
  2. If you’ve survived raising teens and tweens, what are your words of wisdom for those of us who are still in the trenches?
  3. If you don’t have kids, or yours still haven’t reached the teen/tween stage, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned today???

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5 Comments

  1. What a great post! I have a middle schooler this year and I’ve felt unsure about what to pack him for lunch (gone are the days of cute containers and such 🙁 ). Thankfully sandwiches and fruit still work well!

    I want to try that acai bowl!! Looks so good!

  2. Jessica @ Nutritioulicious says:

    This is such a fantastic post EA! Great advice I will definitely need to heed as my girls get older!

    1. The Spicy RD says:

      Thanks so much Jessica! I’m sure you will have lots of great advice to share when your girls are tweens/teens too 🙂

  3. Great advice!! And, don’t forget, even older kids like to go to the supermarket sometimes and help pick out foods they enjoy eating or want to try. Getting kids involved in cooking and shopping isn’t just for young kids! No time, you can even let your teen or tween help you pick out groceries online from freshdirect or peapod

    1. The Spicy RD says:

      Thanks Jodi! And, I love your tips too! My daughter (15) loves to go to the grocery store with me & she’s actually started wanting to spend more time cooking dinners with me in the kitchen-we have a lot of fun together, and it makes my “job” easier too 🙂