Back to School Food Tips for Teens

Back to school is very exciting for kids of every age. Buying new school cloths and supplies but what we usually forget to plan for is how we eat!

I interviewed several teens for this article to learn more about their habits and what they want to know about eating healthier. So for all you teens that are getting ready to head back to school don’t forget the most important school supply of all food! Fuel your brain and body right with good foods!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so don’t miss it. I was not surprised to hear that most teenagers miss breakfast during the summer, because they sleep until lunch time. During the school year (or any day you don’t sleep late) plan on starting each day with a good breakfast. This meal will get your body in gear and what is more important boost your brain power. Think about how long you go without food from your dinner the night before or the snack you had before bedtime…. it could be twelve hours before you get your first meal if you skip breakfast. Now, let’s talk about your car, does it run without gas? Of course not, so why do you think your body can run without it’s gas. Start with something every day: oatmeal with raisins, toast and peanut butter, or even a turkey sandwich. Breakfast does not have to be “breakfast” foods, make it what you want, just eat!

Skip the soda! I was surprised at the easy access to sugary sodas that teens have at school. Soda adds un-needed sugar, causes tooth decay and may lead to loss of bone! Losing bone can mean you are at risk for osteoporosis. Experts believe this bone loss may be due to the phosphoric acid or caffeine in soda as these both may interfere with calcium absorption. Although diet soda may not have the sugar, it does have sugar substitutes which are basically chemically made fake sugars. Do you want to put chemicals in your body? Think of soda as a treat, not a daily drink.

Drink more water! Most of the teens I interviewed said they did not like water. It’s hard to like water when you’re used to drinking sugary drinks like soda and juice. Try these tips to give your water a little flavor without adding sugar or chemicals.  Start with a pitcher, cut up your favorite fruits and place them at the bottom of the pitcher. These can be any fruit you like – mango, berries, oranges, grapefruit – just let your imagination go! After you cut up your favorite fruits just place them at the bottom of the pitcher and fill it with water, stick the pitcher in the fridge and you have fruit flavored water instead of other unhealthy drinks. Fill your re-usable water bottle with your fruit flavored water to transport to school and skip the soda machine all together.

Brown bag it! The one question every teen had, what can I pack for lunch? Remember when you pack your lunch you are in charge of what you put in your body, you’re not at the mercy of the lunch line. Healthy starts with real food! That means avoiding processed foods. Fill you lunch with vegetables – have baby carrots with your sandwich or try a veggie stuffed pita pocket. Fresh fruit will add vitamins and minerals and is a great substitute for chips or dessert. Instead pack a crispy apple or slice up a juicy orange. Choose whole grains, skip the over processed white version. Pack a soup in your thermos and enjoy with whole wheat crackers. If mom made extra dinner last night, how about bringing the left overs. Let your imagination go just stick to whole grains, veggies, fruit, low-fat dairy and lean meats.A few simple changes and you’re on the way to healthy!

Finally, the biggest barrier to teens eating healthy was how to stay motivated to eat healthy. This is hard at every age, but it may even be harder as a teen. When everyone is at a local fast food spot, you want to fit in, and well it tastes good. The answer for teens is the same as it is for adults, find what motivates YOU! Is that motivation being stronger for a sport you compete in, are you concerned because your family members have diabetes and you don’t want to develop diabetes, or do you just want more energy to do better on your school work? Write down your goal and be specific about what changes you will make. Enlist the help of a friend or family member, perhaps you both want to make healthier choices and you can motivate each other.  Inspire your healthy eating partner, by texting healthy choices you make or eating lunch in school together. If you need more motivation or support from your family, get them involved. Ask to help with the cooking and grocery shopping. Investigate healthy recipes on the internet or from cooking magazines and show your family how delicious healthy can be. Getting your family on board is a sure way to keep you on track with your healthy eating goals.

Now when it’s time to prep for the new school year, don’t forget to prep the inside with good food. Don’t just plan on what outfit you will wear, plan on what you will have for breakfast and pack your lunch the night before so all you have to do is grab it and go. A little planning goes a long way.




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About Karyn Capozzo, RD, LD, CDE

Karyn Capozzo is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian in Bonita Springs, Florida. Karyn graduated from the University of Florida and completed her internship in dietetics with Cornell Medical Center in 1997. Since then she has had a diverse career ranging from clinical dietetics on a burn unit at Grady Memorial Hospital to a private practice promoting healthy lifestyles with proper nutrition and exercise. More information about Karyn and her practice can be found online: