The teenage years are full of physical changes, and a healthy and appealing lunch can help meet the need teens have for essential nutrients. Pack tasty, healthy foods that teens have approved in advance to ensure nothing goes to waste and that they're eating a well-rounded meal. Substitute healthy alternatives for sugar-laden desserts and invest in insulated containers for hot and cold foods to provide a wide variety of lunch choices.
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Make sure that the main component of a teen's lunch includes whole grains and protein for essential nutrients. A sandwich made with whole-grain bread, low-fat meat, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber is a basic choice, but think outside the lunchbox for an interesting entree. Vegetarian sushi rolls made with brown rice and julienne vegetables are good for adventurous teens. On cold days, pack turkey chili in an insulated container accompanied by a whole-grain dinner roll.
The vitamins and minerals in fruit are essential to growing teens. Mix up a salad of fresh berries, such as strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, or combine canned fruits, such as pineapple and mandarin oranges, and garnish with mint leaves. Dried fruit has a more intense flavor than fresh and are great finger food. Dried apple slices, banana chips or dried mango are good alternatives to the raisins most teens ate when they were younger.
Raw vegetables sometimes are more palatable to teens when served with a healthy dip. Include a small container of fat-free salad dressing or hummus, which is a good source of protein. Wrap stalks of steamed asparagus with very thin slices of low-sodium and low-fat deli meat or stuff cherry tomatoes with ricotta cheese. A cup of low-sodium vegetable soup in an insulated container is especially good on cold days.
Teenagers need 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day for strong bones and healthy teeth, and while milk is an excellent source, it isn't the only one. Milk is available in shelf-stable aseptic packages, which are convenient if a lunch can't be kept cold. For insulated lunch containers, include fat-free yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese. A few slices of low-fat cheddar cheese are a good accompaniment to apple slices.
Dessert doesn't have to be laden with sugar and fat to be a satisfying treat. Add just a few chocolate chips to a low-sodium trail mix that includes dried fruit and heart-healthy nuts, such as almonds and walnuts. Dip strawberries in chocolate, using a dark variety of chocolate and only coating half of each strawberry. Substitute a muffin studded with dried fruit and made with whole-wheat and applesauce for sugary baked goods.