It is 6 p.m. and I hear the front door slam. Next, the bellowing, cracking voice of my 16 year old boy calling out, “Mom…what’s for dinner?” Are you like me and think about hiding out in the house when your teenager comes home from a long day of school, sports and other extracurricular activities? The “hangries”(hungry and angry) usually happen during a growth phase between ages 11 to 18. How can we prevent the hangries and free ourselves from the daily angst?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, energy needs for growing teens can vary based on age, physical maturity, gender, and activity level. Boys’ energy needs from ages 11-13 are between 1800 – 2600 calories per day and increase to 2200-3200 calories between ages 14-18. Girls’ energy needs from ages 11-13 are between 1800-2200 calories and increase to 1800-2400 calories per day between ages 14-18.(1) This is just the energy required to fuel a growing brain and body. Vigorous activities like soccer, football, basketball, hockey and others increase energy and fluid needs even more.
Teens are tempted by fad diets to help lose, gain or maintain weight and improve appearance. A balanced diet that includes all three macronutrients is important to meet these needs. Protein supports growth while fat and carbohydrates supply the increased energy needs. Breakfast is an important part of a child’s diet and research shows that a healthy breakfast improves brain function.(2) If your child is too busy for breakfast be sure to have him/her pack a healthy snack to eat mid morning.
Packing a lunch and snack is a healthier choice than eating at the school cafeteria. Choose whole grains to optimize fullness and provide much needed B vitamins and other minerals. Just like planning adult meals, teens should strive for a healthy plate. Ensure half your plate/meal is made up of fruits and vegetables, one quarter grains and one quarter protein.(3) Some snacks to include are popcorn, nuts and nut butters, eggs, veggies and cheese.
When participating in after school exercise, carbohydrates are an important fuel before and after a practice or game. A light snack such as half a turkey sandwich or fruit and cheese will ensure their bodies have enough stored glycogen (energy source in our bodies) to perform their best and feel good. After a workout, replenish those carbohydrate stores with a banana and some trail mix or a chocolate milk. Water is the best hydration source for athletes and non-athletes alike. Avoid sugary and caffeine loaded beverages.
Navigating the teenage years can be an emotional roller coaster. Let’s help eliminate the “hangries” by helping our kids choose healthy meals and snacks.
Patti Miller is a Registered Dietitian having completed her B.S. in Food, Nutrition & Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship. Patti’s professional background includes clinical nutrition support within hospitals and inpatient facilities as well as outpatient counseling and home care visits. She has consulted with private fitness clients
and provided nutritional assessments for a healthy, ready-to-cook meal preparation service. She belongs to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and California Dietetics Association. Patti enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two sons and enjoys weight training, golf and travel.