This post: Feeding Hungry Teenagers? Stock Up On These Foods (Written with the assistance of nutritionists) Post updated: 4/2023
You probably noticed that the word healthy doesn’t appear in the title of this post. While most of the “stock up foods” included in this post are, in fact, healthy options, we have to be real about this… most (not all) teenagers love their junk food.
As a mom of three, I try my best to prepare healthy meals for my kids. I also try to provide healthy on-the-go snack options. But, let’s be real, they are teenagers and (personally), if my kids grab a handful of Doritos or a few Oreo cookies every now and then, I’m okay with that. It’s all about balance.
With that in mind, consider this your “real mom’s guide” to stocking your fridge, freezer and pantry with mostly healthy foods your teen might like.
This list isn’t all-encompassing (there are other foods we could likely add to this list) and it goes without saying that not every teen will like everything on the list. In fact, there might be a few items on this list your teen despises, but chances are you’ll find a few things here that your teen can grab when they’re hungry or, if they’re relatively handy in the kitchen, they can whip up themselves. So, if you’re feeding hungry teenagers, here are a few ideas on what foods to stock up on.
Feeding Hungry Teenagers: Stock Up On These Foods
Milk: Whether it’s whole milk, 2% milk or skim milk, milk is a great staple to have on hand to nourish teen’s growing bodies. If your teen isn’t fond of regular milk, try a few other options like Almond, Coconut or Soy Milk.
Juice: 100% fresh juice including apple, orange, white grape or cranberry juice is great. Don’t overlook healthy veggie juices including carrot and V-8 – they taste a whole lot better than they sound. (My kids love the multi-flavor juices including Tropicana’s Pineapple Mango with Lime, but it has far more sugar than other juice. According to nutritionists, if you purchase juice with sugar, look for options with the lowest sugar content.) If your teen isn’t a big juice drinker, try adding a splash of Sprite, Lemon Lime Soda or sparkling water.
Eggs: Even teens who don’t know their way around a kitchen can whip up a healthy egg dish in no time. Scrambled eggs, omelets filled with all their favorite ingredients or hard-boiled eggs make a great meal or snack. And, considering eggs are packed with protein and Vitamin B (plus other nutrients) they’ll be doing their body good. Here are a few crazy easy ways to cook eggs and well as a few pointers on how to make a great omelet.
Low-Fat, Low or No-Sugar Yogurt: Most people think of yogurt and immediately think it’s “healthy.” But, most ready-made yogurt is actually filled with a ton of sugar (that’s why it tastes so darn good). While it’s not horrible for kids to indulge in sugary yogurts from time to time, it’s best to stick with healthy low-fat, low-sugar options (including Greek yogurt) which can be flavored with fruit or a drizzle of honey. Here are the 7 Best Healthy Yogurt Brands, according to nutritionists.
Fresh Fruit: Apples, grapes, oranges, plums, nectarines and peaches are great grab n’ go snacks for teens. Lemons and limes are a must for naturally sweetening water. Don’t overlook avocados (they’re so good for you.) If your teen isn’t keen on avocados, they probably haven’t tried some of the tasty (and easy) avocado toast recipes out there. (My kids are slightly obsessed with avocado toast). Hint: ripen Avocados on the counter before putting them in the fridge.
Veggies: Statistically, most teenagers don’t eat enough veggies. To get your kids eating veggies, keep Ranch Dressing or Hummus on hand so they can dip cucumbers, carrots, green peppers, broccoli and celery (to name a few). Don’t forget onions, lettuce and tomatoes for sandwiches. Also, get creative with seasonings! Things like Seasoned Baked Broccoli, baked potatoes with salt, pepper, bacon and cheese (makes a great snack, too) and healthy Stir-Fried Veggies with Garlic and Soy Sauce are my kids’ favorites. Here are 5 homemade seasonings for veggies to try!
Low-Fat Cheese: Stock up on low-fat block cheese so your teen can pair it with crackers for a quick snack. Cheddar, Mozzarella, Pepperjack or Swiss are great teen-friendly options. Low-fat sliced cheese is a must for sandwiches as well as cheese stix for snacks.
Bagged or Pre-Made Salad: When it comes to feeding hungry teenagers, it’s all about convenience. Most teens won’t take the time to prepare a healthy salad. (Hooray if yours does!) But, if you make it easy by purchasing pre-washed bagged salad and a few salad toppings or pre-made salads (which can be expensive, unless you buy them on sale) they’re far more likely to whip up a quick salad when they’re hungry. Here’s a whole list of salad topping ideas!
Tortillas: Seriously, I’m not sure tortillas ever go bad in the fridge! Any size, any kind – they’re perfect for throwing together a quick lunch, dinner or breakfast in a jiffy. From tacos and breakfast burritos to easy quesadillas and rollups, there are enough meal options available, no matter how busy life gets. Check out this list of tortilla recipes!
Lunch Meat: Having a variety of lunch meat on hand makes it easy for any hungry teenager to whip up a sandwich. Turkey and ham are great, but if you’re looking to spice things up a bit, head to your deli for a few new finds. (It might not be the healthiest option of all, but my kids’ all-time favorite lunch meat is Boar’s Head Pastrami Seasoned Turkey – it’s a staple in my house!) Here’s a list of the best (and worst) packaged deli meats so you’ll know what you’re buying.
Bacon: Bacon may not be the healthiest thing in the world, but in moderation, it certainly won’t do our kids in. Used as a topping for salads, on BLT sandwiches, over grilled chicken or crumbled and tossed in with eggs, it’s one of those foods that most teens find hard to pass up.
Pre-Packaged Grilled Chicken: If you peered in my fridge right now, you’d find two packages of Perdue pre-packaged grilled chicken. We use it in salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and more.
Lean Ground Beef of Turkey: One of the things I always keep on hand is a pound or two of lean ground beef. When I’m taking the night off from cooking or my kids are in the mood for a snack, they’ll toss it in a pan and brown to use in tacos or burritos (with added Mexican seasonings, of course) or they’ll toss it on pasta with pasta sauce. Sometimes, we’ll make burgers which are a whole lot better (and less expensive) than drive-thru restaurants.
Condiments: Make sure you always have ketchup, mustard and mayo on hand for making sandwiches. But, also don’t forget Ranch Dressing (and other salad dressings), soy sauce, BBQ sauce and even Worcester Sauce.
Feeding hungry teenagers? Here are 25 Simple Recipes They Can Make Themselves!
Frozen Fruit: Look in the frozen section of your grocery store for bags of fresh fruit. They’re great for making smoothies or for adding to yogurt. Here are a few healthy smoothie recipes your teen might like!
Whole-Grain Waffles: Waffles not only make a quick and easy breakfast for teens, they make a perfect after-school or midnight snack. If your teen is a waffle lover, check out these slightly over-the-top waffle toppings you’ve probably never tried before! (Your teen can dunk them in chocolate or anything else they fancy, too!)
Healthy Frozen Dinners: When life gets busy, it’s so nice to have a few “pop in the microwave” dinner options. Although there are plenty of unhealthy frozen dinners on the market, there are healthy options that actually taste great! Looking for ideas? Check out this list of healthy frozen dinners.
Pizza: When it comes to pizza, I can’t get my kids to choose healthier versions over the “loaded with cheese, sausage, pepperoni and onions” options. But, if you think you can get your teen on board, there are actually tons of healthy pizza options on the market. Here’s a list of the healthiest store-bought pizzas, according to nutritionists.
Chicken Nuggets: if I didn’t have chicken nuggets in my freezer, I’d cringe at the amount of money I’d be spending at Chick-fil-A or other drive-thru restaurants. It doesn’t matter how old they are, few teens can resist the temptation of a plateful of chicken nuggets. Although typically referred to as “junk food,” there are relatively healthy chicken nugget options on the market. Or, if your teen is comfortable in the kitchen, they can make their own with this easy homemade chicken nugget recipe.
Frozen Appetizers: It goes without saying that some frozen appetizers are a nutritional nightmare, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that they sure are nice to have on hand, especially when my kids have a few friends over. Need ideas? Here’s a list of the most nutritional frozen appetizers and a few you probably need to stay away from.
Looking for more ideas? Here’s a list of the 31 Healthy-Store Bought Frozen Meals and Snacks to Stock in Your Freezer
Whole Wheat (or Honey Wheat) Bread: If you have teens, you probably go through a ton of bread in your house. But, maybe it’s time to break free from boring ham and cheese sandwiches. Here are a few sandwiches to spice up your kid’s lunchbox. (If your teens are like mine and don’t really dig the super “grainy” bread, try honey wheat bread instead.)
Cereal: Whether they’re looking for a quick, on-the-go breakfast, an after-school snack or a midnight snack when they’re up late studying, cereal is one of the best ways to satisfy a hungry teen’s appetite. Here’s a list of the healthiest cereals on the market.
Pancake Mix: Whether it’s regular pancake mix or whole-grain (far better for you), having a box or two of pancake mix is a must-have for teenagers. Good ‘ole fashioned Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix only requires a couple of ingredients so teens of any age can learn to make pancakes. Or, if they’re hankering for homemade, there are plenty of easy recipes they can make that aren’t from a box.
Peanut Butter & Jelly: Are you ever too old for PB&J sandwiches? Keep a big jar of peanut butter on hand for sandwiches, toast, to put on top of waffles or for dunking apples and celery.
Carnation Instant Breakfast: One of my kids’ all-time favorite on-the-go breakfasts is Carnation Instant Breakfast (which is loaded with vitamins) along with peanut butter toast. It’s healthy, super easy and they can make it in under five minutes. (It comes in a variety of flavors, too!)
Pasta & Noodles: Filling up a hungry teenager can be challenging. You can’t go wrong with pasta. It’s quick and easy to prepare and, topped with pasta sauce, alfredo sauce or pesto sauce and topped with chicken or ground beef makes an easy meal that’s sure to fill them up. Here are more than a few easy peasy pasta recipes even your teen can make! I always have some type of pasta salad in the fridge for my kids to snack on – here is their all-time favorite pasta salad recipe! (It’s a fave with all my kids’ friends, too!)
Rice & Beans: One of my kids’ favorite breakfasts is eggs and rice (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it). And, one of my daughter’s favorite comfort foods is chili and rice. Rice (from white to whole-grain to brown) is a great staple to have on hand and can be paired with just about anything! (Sometimes, it’s yummy all by itself.) To make things really easy, purchase the “boil-in-bag” rice.
Crackers: It’s always smart to have a selection of crackers on hand. Crackers paired with chicken salad, tuna salad or egg salad (ready-made or make your own) are delicious for snacks or lunch. Don’t forget graham crackers, too!
Soup: While most canned soups are loaded with salt, there are plenty of delicious reduced-sodium soups that will fill up even the hungriest teen. Plus, nothing warms your bones more than a hot bowl of soup on a cold day. Here’s a list of the 9 Healthiest Store-Bought Soups, according to a nutritionist.
Oatmeal: If your teen shuns the idea of oatmeal, sprinkle it with a little brown sugar the next time you make it. Adding fresh fruit is another great way to get your teen to eat oatmeal. It’s a healthy, quick snack (or meal) that will fill them up. (The Quaker Oats quick-cook oatmeal packets, which come in a variety of flavors, are great!)
Nuts: My kids are always looking for snacks they can grab when they’re studying or watching a movie. I always have various nuts on hand (sometimes I buy trail mix, too). Some of my kids’ favorites are sunflower seeds (salted in the shell, of course) mixed nuts, glazed pecans and honey roasted almonds.
Popcorn: Need I say more? It’s the ultimate grab-and-go snack.
Semi-Healthy Snacks: Whole grain chips, pretzels or baked potato or tortilla chips aren’t the worst thing in the world for our kids. For dipping, I always keep fresh salsa and guacamole on hand. (Mom confession: yes, I buy Doritos and Cheetos from time to time.)
Protein/Granola/Breakfast Bars: Not all protein/granola/breakfast bars are created equal. Some are filled with unhealthy ingredients (that appear to be healthy) while others actually are healthy. Honestly, I’ve been known to buy both. As long as it isn’t packed with sugar and has mostly healthy ingredients, I always offer my kids a variety in my pantry. Here’s a list of the healthiest granola bars, according to a nutritionist.
Boxed Muffin Mix: Nope… not really all that healthy, but what I do is make banana muffins (from a box) and add a fresh banana and/or nuts for added nutrition. Chopped apples and fresh blueberries can also be added to ramp up nutrition and make them taste more homemade.
Brownie or Cookie Mix: Every mom (or dad) who’s feeding hungry teenagers needs brownie or cookie mix in their pantry (even on occasion) so they can whip up a little treat when their kids have had a crummy day. Is there anything that puts a smile on our kids’ faces more than warm brownies or cookies straight out of the oven?
Cookies: While I definitely cave in from time to time and grab the Oreos or Chunky Chocolate Chip cookies off the shelf in the grocery store, there are healthier options that can still satisfy your teen’s sweet tooth. Here’s a list of the healthiest store-bought cookies for kids.