Whether you have several teenage kids to feed at home or need to host an entire sports team for dinner, feeding teenagers can be an intimidating task. During these years of growth, development and high activity, teens seem to have endless pits for stomachs. They also do not hesitate to share their taste preferences or dislikes. With all these difficulties in mind, what are the best meals to feed a group of teenagers?
Some of the best meals to feed a group of teens are: pulled pork sandwiches with sweet potato fries and an orange, spaghetti with cheesy broccoli and apples or taco salad with some grapes. Try to create balance in the meal with a mix of grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. The best meals for teenagers will combine affordability with ease and balanced nutrition.
Good meals should also contain good flavor that appeals to most teenagers. Continue reading for more tips, recipes and ideas regarding meals for a group of teenagers.
What makes a good meal for teenagers?
Before getting into meal ideas, adults should understand how to create a meal that will leave a teenager feeling satisfied and energized. A meal should contain a combination of the three macronutrients carbohydrate, protein and fat. They each provide unique and important characteristics to a good meal.
This nutrient gives teenagers energy and often provide a good source of fiber. Emphasize nutrient dense carbohydrates for long lasting energy and to promote health.
Nutrient dense sources of carbohydrates to include in meals are whole grains (whole wheat bread, pasta, and tortillas, brown rice, starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, winter squash) legumes (beans, lentils, peas), fruit and dairy (milk, yogurt).
Considered the building block of the body, teenagers need protein to grow and develop well. This nutrient also contributes to feeling full between meals and preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes. Great protein foods include lean meat and poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy products.
Dietary fat assists in nutrient absorption, provides energy and keeps body cells healthy. This nutrient also improves taste, texture and the satiety factor of food.
Health experts recommend eating more unsaturated than saturated fats and to avoid trans fat. Good sources of unsaturated fats include plant oils, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados.
My plate model
Ideally, meals for teenagers will offer a variety of food groups to meet these nutrient needs. A good model to follow comes from the My Plate guide. This diagram suggests making half the plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter grains and another quarter protein foods.
Best meal ideas for a group of teens
Following the previous tips of a balanced meal for a group of teenagers offers many possibilities. The following list offers main meal ideas, but sides of fruit and vegetables will balance out the dish.
- Pancakes/waffles with fruit and nut butter toppings
- Make your own yogurt parfaits with bagels
- Toppings: berries, granola, bananas, nuts, hemp seeds
- Crock pot oatmeal with green smoothies
- Egg and veggie burritos
- Whole grain cold cereal and peanut butter or avocado toast
- Breakfast casserole
- Breakfast casserole recipe
– 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) olive oil
– 1 pound hashbrowns
– 12 eggs
– 1 zucchini, chopped
– 1 tomato, chopped
– Any other vegetable of choice, chopped
– 1 cup (C.) cottage cheese
– 1/2-1 C. shredded cheese
– 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
– 1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
– 1/2 Tbsp. black pepper
– 1/2 Tbsp. garlic salt
Preheat oven to 350 F and oil an 8X13 pan. Crack eggs into pan, mix in the rest of the ingredients until combined. Cook 30-40 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
- Cheese and bean quesadillas with guacamole
- Tuna fish sandwiches
- Taco salad using half lentils and half lean beef
- Egg sandwiches with avocado and tomato
- Gourmet burgers (lean beef patties with a variety of vegetable toppings) and sweet potato or potato fries
- Homemade chicken and veggie pizza
- Easy dough recipe: https://joyfoodsunshine.com/easy-homemade-pizza-dough/
- For toppings try pizza sauce, shredded rotisserie chicken, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, or any other favorite vegetable toppings
- Spaghetti and meatballs (try lentils meatballs for a more plant based meal)
- Baked chicken and rice
- Chicken noodle soup and whole grain breadsticks
- Greek style chicken salad with pita bread and hummus
- Bean chili with baked potatoes
- Chili recipe
– 1 lb. ground beef/ground turkey
– 1 C. chopped onion
– 2 cans kidney beans
– 2-1 lb cans stewed tomatoes
– 2 Tbsp. chili powder
– 1 teaspoon (tsp.) salt
– 2 Tbsp. vinegar
– 2 tsp. garlic powder
Brown beef and onions in lightly oiled pot. Drain off excess fat or keep if preferred. Add rest of ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Fruit slices
- Fruit salad
- Fruit smoothies
- Roasted vegetables
- Steamed vegetables
- Homemade fries
- Spaghetti squash with Parmesan
- Whole grain rolls/breadsticks/toast
- Whole grain crackers (triscuits, wheat thins)
Tips for feeding a youth group
Feeding a large group of teenagers in a youth group comes with many unique challenges. Teenagers will express individual needs and preferences that one meal may not meet.
For example, the amount needed between a 17-year old male and a 12-year old female will differ significantly. Furthermore, a “healthy” meal may end up in the trash more than in the teenage stomachs.
Buffet style serving
Allow teenagers to decide whether they want a food and how much food they want. This style of serving prevents food waste and meets the varied needs of teenagers.
Meals that allow teenagers to create their own dishes boosts overall satisfaction. Dishes that work well with this style include sandwiches, wraps, salads and sack meals
Serve entrees with sides
Sides of fruit, salad, vegetables, rolls, fries, etc. give picky eaters other options without the need to create two separate meals
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich bar
With camps and other experiences that require multiple meals, offer a sandwich bar. Teens who do not want the main meal offered can make themselves a sandwich.
Be okay with offering treats and popular snack items
Youth do not need an extremely rigid health diet. Provide good, nutritious meals, but feel free to offer favorite treats and snacks as well.
Cheap food for a crowd of kids
Cooking a meal to satisfy many hungry teenagers can be expensive. However, some simple choices or swaps can create a delicious meal with less of an impact on the wallet.
- Stop by the frozen section
Do not shy away from frozen foods. When certain foods are out of season, the price will increase. However, frozen meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables can often offer the same quality and nutrition at a lower price.
- Try canned foods
Canned foods also offer a cheaper option to many fresh food items. These foods also save on time as they are usually pre-cooked or seasoned. Canned foods usually contain high amounts of sodium. Try to choose low sodium or no salt added options. Rinsing canned foods also reduces sodium content.
- Eat more plant based
Preparing meals with less of a meat focus will decrease costs. Emphasize plant based protein such as beans, nuts and seeds over meat and dairy. Not only does reducing animal m consumption save money, but it also protects the planet and individual health.
Tofu or beans can replace meat in most recipes. A less drastic measure involves switching out half the meat for lentils, beans or soy products. This action conserves the meat taste and texture but adds nutrition and decreases cost.
- Ditch the name brands
Look for the generic brands instead of name brands. These brands offer similar quality and taste at a much better price.
- Use cheap staple foods
Teenagers usually do not expect, or often want, exotic or fancy dishes. Save these pricier recipes for a night in with a companion of choice. Cheap foods to include in a meal are rice, pasta, dry or canned beans, chicken, eggs, seasonal fruit or vegetables, potatoes and corn.
- Check out sales and coupons
Stores will often have weekly sales and coupons. Taking some time to look over sales and clip coupons can also save money and provide ideas on what to cook for the meals.
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