As a parent or guardian, it can be quite tricky trying to cook family meals your adolescent kids will happily eat. We take a look at the 5 key food and beverage groups every teenager should be eating. Then we take a look at what your teens should be avoiding. 

While your teenagers are likely nowhere near as picky as they were as young children, some poor eating habits may still be lingering. A lot of parents also find their teens tend to crave foods high in salt, saturated fats and sugars.

It’s very important that your teenage kids are living on a high-quality diet, since their bodies are still growing and changing. So, if you’re unsure which food groups you should be targeting as a parent, here is a comprehensive guide on what they should consume and some things they should avoid.


Your teenage kids are going through a lot of stress during this stage of their life. Rising academic pressure in high school mixed with puberty can make everyday life highly emotional for them. They need to be getting the right amount of energy and nutrition from their food every day.

Therefore, teens need their wholegrains every day. Grains are a great source of energy, fibre and carbohydrates. While you don’t want your kids to be overeating on carbs (in the form of cereals and bread), wholegrains are particularly helpful because they make you feel fuller for longer. As a result, they help prevent unnecessary snacking.

Red and white meat

Unless you live a strict vegetarian diet (for dietary or religious reasons), your teens should be eating red or white meat at least a few times a week. Meat is a great source of protein and iron, which can help with muscle development, bone strength and growth. Not eating enough iron can lead to anaemia, which is a condition where the individual feels fatigued, light-headed and mentally tired for long periods of time.

Mental fatigue doesn’t mix well with school-related stress, so make sure your teens are eating enough chicken, beef and fish. A nutritious dish, like this honey-mustard chicken dish is a very effective way of getting your high school-aged kids to eat chicken, which is full of iron and other healthy nutrients. The mixture of these vivid flavours gives this dish a delectable crispy finish and fantastic flavour.

Vegetarian sources of protein

Some parents will discover the teen years are a time when people often try out a vegetarian diet for the first time. Thankfully, there are still plenty of ways vegetarians and vegans can get adequate levels of protein into their diet.

In fact, most of these sources of protein are far healthier for us than many animal sources. So it’s wise to try and incorporate these alternative protein sources into your teen’s diet at least once or twice a week.

Lentils are a great source of protein and can be easily incorporated into a wide variety of salads and other dishes. They have also been linked to lower risks of heart disease and diabetes. Chickpeas are another legume that are particularly high in protein. They can be easily incorporated into salads and have a wide variety of health benefits.


5 Food Groups Teens Should be Eating - And What to Avoid-water

It may sound obvious, but your teenagers need to be drinking plenty of water daily.

Drinking fluids is very important for your metabolism, energy levels and in preventing constipation. Make sure your teenage kids are drinking lots of water, a minimum of 10 cups of water per day. Water consumption should also help your teens in getting magnesium, which can help boost their metabolism levels.

Fruit and vegetables

This group is in every food guide and for good reason. Fruits and veggies contain heaps of vital minerals and vitamins that help boost your immune system. The last thing your teens need is to be constantly getting sick and missing school. Make sure they’re getting the required amount of fruit and vegetables and you’ll notice that they have much more energy for getting out of bed.

Foods and drinks to avoid

Your kids should be avoiding foods and drinks that are generally high in fat and sugars. These foods are associated with tooth decay, obesity and even diabetes!

There’s nothing wrong with a treat in moderation, however, if these foods begin to creep into your teen’s daily eating habits, it needs to stop. Poor food choices in the teenage years often create habits that are very difficult to change in the adult years.

Try to avoid bringing home chocolate, lollies, pastries and biscuits, as your teenage kids will probably gobble these up quickly, particularly when doing their homework or studying.

Likewise, avoid bringing soft drinks and other sweetened beverages into the house. These options are often high in sugar and low in nutritional value. But let’s face it, they are tasty, and your teens are going to drink them if they’re in the fridge. Simply not bringing them into the home prevents any urges on your teen’s part.

Another tip is to avoid using a lot of butter when cooking. Traditional olive oil, or canola oils, are much lower in saturated fats, so this is a healthier alternative for frying and baking.

A last point to note is that it’s really important to keep monitoring your teenage kids and what they’re eating. The teen years can be very stressful because of school and other changes in their lives. So, make sure they continue eating well through this period, and you’re giving them the best chance to maintain a healthy relationship with food later in life.

For more expert advice on teen diets, check out our Teens: Food and nutrition section, there’s also dietary advice in our Teens: Health and wellbeing section.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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