Keep kids and parents happy with these easy mood-boosting recipes to help you create delicious, healthy meals for teenagers. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas for teens.
Tasty Meals for Teenagers
We know that the teenage years are a time of huge change, with teens’ bodies growing and developing at a rapid rate. As parents, we spend a lot of time encouraging our children to eat healthily, to support their physical development. But did you know that you can also support their developing minds through diet?
Whether they’re stressed about exams, struggling through their first heartbreak or learning to cope with the challenges of adult life, every teen experiences times that are mentally tough. Luckily, there are a few practical ways you can help – including fueling them with delicious food that’s designed to support their mental wellbeing.
There’s no one more time-poor than a parent, and we know that it can feel overwhelming to have to come up with nutritious meals every single night that your teen will actually want to eat. We don’t want to contribute to your stress levels, or heap even more on to your already overflowing plate (pun intended!). The recipes we’ve suggested below are quick and simple to make, and won’t break the bank.
And why not get your kids involved in prepping the food? It’s a great way to bond with them while teaching them how to nourish their bodies and their minds, and it’ll give you a much-needed hand in the kitchen.
Foods to focus on: Nutritional Needs of Adolescence
According to Health for Teens, some types of food are good to keep on hand at all times:
Foods rich in carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, wholegrain cereals, potatoes and bread, and dairy foods like milk, boost your serotonin levels.
Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It’s the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating and digesting – plus it’s known to reduce depression and regulate anxiety.
Foods that are rich in B vitamins
Anything rich in B vitamins reduces tiredness and helps keep your mood even.
Meat, eggs, milk, green leafy veggies, legumes, mushrooms, tomatoes and pineapple are great sources of all the B vitamins.
Most cereals are fortified with B vitamins, too, which is another reason to encourage your kids to eat breakfast.
Iron-rich foods are important for memory and brain function, and for maintaining energy levels and reducing irritability. This is particularly important for young girls, who are more likely to be low on iron once their period starts.
Making sure your teen is getting enough red meat, poultry, fish and eggs is important. If they’re vegetarian or vegan, give them lots of dried beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are other known mood-boosters. Deficiencies in omega-3 are associated with mood disorders including depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, dyslexia and schizophrenia.
Include oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds in your teen’s diet to boost their omega-3 intake.
Our top five mood-boosting recipes
Breakfast Recips for Teens
Strawberry, blueberry and coconut smoothie
Start your teen’s day off on the right foot with this brain-boosting smoothie. The fruit boosts serotonin levels – in particular, banana, which is packed full of B vitamins as well.
If fresh berries are a little expensive, you can totally use the frozen stuff. This recipe is even vegan.
Creamy blueberry–pecan overnight oatmeal
Another great option for breakfast is this overnight oatmeal.
With blueberries and oatmeal to drive up serotonin, and nuts to boost their iron stores, this breakfast will keep your teen feeling full and brimming with energy for the day ahead.
Complex carbs like oatmeal are great for breakfast because they keep you fuller for longer and won’t spike your blood sugar – particularly important for growing bodies.
If you need to make this recipe suitable for a vegan, just swap out the Greek yoghurt for a dairy-free alternative.
Lunch and Dinner Ideas for Teenagers
Salmon and avocado salad
Omega-3 is a bit of a wonder nutrient when it comes to boosting mood and reducing depression or anxiety.
Two servings per week of a fatty fish like salmon or mackerel will keep your teen’s omega-3 levels looking healthy.
Including salmon in a salad is a great way to ensure they’re also getting plenty of iron-rich and vitamin B packed greens at the same time.
Greek salad with edamame
If you need a vegetarian alternative to fatty fish for introducing omega-3, then look no further than edamame beans!
This mood-boosting twist on an old favourite, Greek salad, will give your teen the same benefits of omega-3 as a piece of salmon. And it’s easy to adapt for a vegan diet – just swap the feta for a vegan alternative.
Full of fatty fish, eggs and rice, this dish packs a punch when it comes to mood-boosting properties.
Guaranteed to lift your kid’s levels of omega-3, serotonin and B vitamins, it’s a perfect meal for any time of the day. Adapt it for vegetarians or veans by swapping in chickpeas or tofu for the eggs and fish.
Dietary Guidelines for Teenagers: Foods to Watch
We definitely don’t like to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but some foods do exacerbate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
If your teen is struggling with their mood, try monitoring their intake of these foods:
Caffeine should be consumed only in moderation by teenagers, and should definitely be monitored in kids experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety.
Refined sugars and carbs
Refined sugar or carbs have been linked to increased rates of depression. The body processes these kinds of foods too quickly, leading to a ‘high’, followed immediately by a ‘crash’. This effect can worsen symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Trans fats have also been linked to an increased likelihood of depression, and they can contribute to worsening symptoms if someone is already experiencing a low mood.
This means keeping anything deep fried in oil as only an occasional menu item.
Did you find what you needed?
Yes – Take a look through our study food guide with your teen and choose some recipes together.
No – Get some one-on-one support through ReachOut Parents One-on-One Support.
I need to know more – Join the ReachOut Parents forums to talk to other parents about how they support their teens’ healthy eating habits.
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Annie Wylie works as a Content Manager at ReachOut Parents, a not for profit organisation in Australia which helps parents support their teenagers through everyday issues and tough times.