date shake

By Ren Behan

The summer holidays have come to an end and the kids have gone back to school. Teens and tweens need regular refuelling and whilst daytime hunger pangs are mostly taken care of courtesy of the school canteen or the corner shop, there will almost certainly be some fridge-raiding going on once they arrive home. There are the obvious snack targets, such as cereals and store cupboard treats, but hungry teenagers really need food that will give them a nutritious boost and keep them going until teatime.

Healthy smoothies and milkshakes are as good as an after-school snack as they are a quick breakfast. Keep a stick blender or a jug blender within easy reach and you’ll never be more than a couple of minutes away from a food pit stop. Better still, teach your teens how to whizz up a few recipes themselves and they’ll soon be experimenting with their own favourite flavours. A good basic recipe to start with is The amazing date shake – made with dates, milk and a pinch of cinnamon. Then experiment with dairy-free milks or nut milks for extra protein, or try adding in a banana or even half an avocado for a bonus hit of potassium.

Sandwiches and wraps filled with protein and salad are also good choices. If your teens fancy something warm, try quesadillas, made by filling two soft flour tortillas with grated cheese and strips of ham, turkey, chicken or leftover veggies. Once filled, warm the filled tortillas through in a flat pan, flipping them over like a pancake, until they get crispy on the outside and the cheese has melted on the inside. Flour tortillas don’t take up a lot of space, and you can always keep a few packets to hand in the freezer. There are plenty of varieties available now too, so look out for plain wraps, as well as wholemeal, seeded or corn tortillas. Try these Mexican-style Quesadillas with guacamole to start with.

Tinned soups are easy for anyone to grab out of the cupboard and re-heat, but why not make one big tasty pan of homemade soup, using cheap and seasonal vegetables, which can then be kept in the fridge ready to reheat throughout the week? Soups can easily be padded out with lentils, beans, pasta, noodles or rice, too, which will not only keep hungry teenagers going for longer, but will make simple ingredients stretch a bit further. You can make very tasty soups with roasted vegetables. Try peppers, butternut squash or mixed tomatoes and a handful of onions, and roast until soft. Transfer to a large pan, cover the veg with stock, bring to the boil and blend. Or, go for something really flavourful and filling like an Early autumn minestrone, adding in all their favourite veggies in one go.

Inspire the teens to get creative!

Ren Behan is a mum of two and a food writer. Find out more at



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  • Tuuli Reinsoo

    when I was a teen, my school had an afternoon shift and I arrived at about 6pm. my mom worked till 8pm. My dad doesnt cook and he had concerts in the evening. I knew very ltitle about cooking, I wasn´t allowed to do anything. so I tried and made some ugly mess. mom scolded me and mocked me for it, and I was miserable. in time I learned to do better, but I had a lot of problems with eating, cause I was put down all the time. after a long sickness I really got into cooking. but I think I spent most of my teen years eating leftovers or nothing. that affected my schoolwork and I was so tired. I wish someone had given me more tips. maybe Jamie should do a cook book for teens next? most important being shout-outs of motivation and encouragement. and to not be turned off by first failures.

    • Food Ren

      A lovely comment, thank you, I’m so glad you enjoy cooking now – it’s such a shame when kids and teenagers aren’t encouraged to experiment.

  • Christine Staton

    I love these ideas as i have a few active teenagers in my house! My problem that you might could throw out a few suggestions for is that the kids go from school directly to practice without stopping by the house. Other than the cupboard (processed) snacks i am having trouble finding something to provide them with the protein and carbs, in a healthy way, that they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Celery and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, are getting “boring and old” according to the teens! Any suggestions to pack in the bag for between school and practice?

    • Rose Virginia

      Make your own oat and honey bars, or even PB bars! You can use organic, GMO free ingredients! What about homemade jerky or fruit leathers? I have 2 teenagers and these are a big hit.

      • Christine Staton

        What great idea’s – looking up receipes now! Thank you!!

        • Rose Virginia

          You are welcome. Homemade Trail Mix is another good idea. I posted some ideas on this subject on my FB page Natural Food Revolution. Come and join us!

        • Food Ren

          Yes or perhaps you could bake muffins with squash or courgette and use an alternative to sugar, such as agave nectar?

          • Christine Staton

            Thank you! Another great idea – i did not think of muffins as i usually think breakfast with them!

  • Lupe Guerra

    I grew up in Mexico. To us, an after school snack was guacamole, fresh made fruit juices and fresh cut fruits & veggies with lime juice & salt & a little ground up chilli powder. I knew there are healthier alternatives but let’s face it; parents these days rely on pre-packaged snacks because of their super busy lifestyle. Often, parents work two jobs just to make ends meet so they spend less quality time with their families and providing them proper guidance and nutrition. It is not an excuse; just an observation. I don’t have children but I am so worried about nutrition that even my pets get healthy treats. The dog gets carrots, apples peanut butter & even almond milk. Both the cat & dog get lots of healthy cuts of meat and yogurt. I used to provide my dog oatmeal and rice but she developed grain allergies when she got older so she went on a grain free diet.

    • Food Ren

      Lucky dog! I;m glad you enjoy healthy eating. Yes sadly most of the time the issue is that parents are very busy and so grab pre-packaged snacks.

  • Elena Chera

    All the networks cook Jamie Oliver’s best chef in the world, food is easy and fast cook has more calories and is very tasty, do not have much time at your disposal and look when I get home from work to cook in home something simple and fast, and that’s because Jamie’s recipes are “bestial” thank you

    • Food Ren

      Thanks for your comment, Elena

  • Ayesha (Rude&Chic)

    I saw this cucumber salad with honey, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, soy, and olive oil dressing on tv today but can’t seem to find the exact recipe here. I want to make it and give you credit but no luck so far.

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