Teenagers should choose whole-grain, high-fiber bread for sandwiches.

What Should a Teenager Eat for Lunch?

by Ann Jones

Because your body is still growing while you're a teenager, eating a nourishing lunch every day is essential. However, this can be difficult if you're faced with unhealthy school lunch choices and hallways full of soda machines. Prepare your teen a nutritious meal complete with proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to ensure optimal nutrition.

1. Protein

Protein sources such as lean meats and tofu make delicious sandwiches, an easy option for lunch on the go. Choose white meat chicken and turkey instead of salami or other red meat. Vegetarians can make healthy sandwiches with veggie bacon or veggie burgers. Other protein options include beans, nuts and seeds and quinoa, an ancient grain that is actually a seed. Mix quinoa into salads or eat it seasoned with garlic and lime juice, nutritional yeast, coconut milk and raisins or a splash of hot sauce and a handful of chopped almonds.

2. Complex Carbohydrates

Replace white bread with the whole-grain variety to avoid a spike in blood sugar that can leave you tired an hour or two later. Other healthy options include multi-grain wraps or crackers dipped in hummus or creamy dressing. If your teen prefers to eat the grains themselves rather than bread, try barley, wheat berries, millet or brown rice. A plastic container of cooked beans and rice is a nutritious, low-fat lunch that you can eat cold.

3. Fruits and Vegetables

The more fruits and vegetables you pack into your diet, the better. If your child finds that plain salad doesn't keep well throughout the morning, mix vegetables with grains. Try carrots, celery, fresh corn or leafy greens like spinach. Carry carrot sticks and raw cauliflower, broccoli or bell peppers in one container and a single serving cup of dip. Add veggies to sandwiches or wraps. Take along a piece of fruit like an apple, pear, orange or banana for dessert.

4. Healthy Fats

Although low-fat foods abound in grocery stores, your child's body actually needs healthy fats in moderate doses. Wise choices include avocados, nuts and olive oil, all of which are easily added to sandwiches or salads. By replacing unhealthy or trans fats with healthy fats, your teen remains full and satisfied until after school or dinnertime. Another sources of healthy fat that is a nutritional powerhouse is flax seed. Grind flax seeds rather than eating them whole; they pass through your body undigested if not ground.

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