This is a guest post by Lior Torenberg, a high school senior and foodie.
If you’ve ever been hungry and tired at the same time, then you might understand my frustration. If not, try picturing this: It’s nine-thirty PM, I limp through the front door and growl loudly. “Was that me?” I frown and rub my stomach, hoping I didn’t just wake up my entire town. That’s when I realize that I haven’t eaten since eleven, lunchtime, when I had a bagel and a way-too-sweet frappucino (“Was it mocha chocolate swirl? Or vanilla caramel crunch? Whatever, it had a lot of adjectives”). Being starving and exhausted is a catch-22, a paradox: You’re too hungry to go to sleep, but too tired to make food. I lay comatose on my couch and review my day: I woke up at seven o’clock, ate some cereal, had lunch at eleven, school ended at three and I rushed to do my homework before cheerleading practice at five-thirty. When it ended at seven-thirty I had just enough time to get to my local gym for an eight o’clock yoga class. It’s extremely hard for teenagers, borderline impossible, to eat right when your schedule is as crazy as most of ours are.
So what do you do? You might be one of those kids with fairy tale parents who leave you a fridge full of lasagna, sandwiches, desserts and other lovely leftovers (Can you tell I’m writing this hungry?), and if so, then I am very jealous of you. But if you’re like a large portion of the teenage population then your daily diet consists of one or two meals with a lot of triscuits, pop tarts and coffee in between, if you even have the time.
Don’t despair. Here are some quick fixes that are tried and true to keep me healthy and energetic throughout my busy schedule.
Instant Oatmeal – Now you’re either thinking one or two things, “ew” or “what is this, Little House on the Prairie?” Let me explain. Oatmeal is awesome. I think it might even be a fact. It keeps you full for hours, has a boatload of protein, fiber and nutrients, and, tastes amazing with pretty much all fruits and nuts. And, here’s the clincher: you can make it in under ten minutes.
Greek Yogurt – For vegans out there (including myself) it is very easy to substitute greek yogurt for any other soy-based or coconut-based yogurt alternative without losing too much nutritional value. I like to mix yogurt with granola, and have a fruit on the side like an apple or an orange. This is a great way to start off your day, because you’re getting protein, calcium and a digestive boost, minimal assembly required.
This one is a tricky one, because a lot of us teenagers go out for lunch on our breaks, and these breaks are usually only between half an hour and an hour long, so our choices are limited. If you’re stuck at a fast food place where the healthiest thing on the menu is a suspicious salad (“bacon ranch salad? Is that healthy?”), then you might even be safer ordering a wrap or a burger. Try avoiding foods with unnecessary adjectives (Taco Bell’s Volcano Nachos have one thousand calories and almost two thousand grams of sodium), and opt for words like “egg white”, “grilled”, “oven roasted” and “turkey”. Also, most fast food restaurants now offer options like yogurt and fruit, which can be a great compromise if you really need to have half of that Whopper.
If you do pack a lunch, then try following my criteria: fruit, protein, carbohydrates and vegetables must all be present. For example, you might pack an apple, carrots, almonds, and a sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cheese. Does that seem like a good sized lunch? Believe it or not, you could eat probably quadruple that amount if you wanted to get the same amount of fat in a single fast food burger. Another option would be a Luna, Lara, or other healthy bar, grapes, crackers, celery and peanut butter. All of these options beat a side of fries and a McFlurry.
Salad – This healthy staple has an odd reputation among teenagers because of the perceived amount of work necessary versus the taste bud gratification received. But that’s just a rumor, and as teenagers, aren’t we supposed to avoid those? What I like to do is grab myself a generous amount of mixed greens or spinach and mix in the entire contents of my fridge. Mango? Great. Asparagus? Bring it on. These olives have been sitting around for awhile, room for everybody. As for dressing, let’s not make a big deal out of it. A little olive oil or a little balsamic vinegar, or a little bit of both, and you’re set.
Tip: don’t even take the lettuce out of the box, who has the time for subtleties like that? This is a meal I had while I was studying for finals. A tub of mixed greens, grated carrots and cranberries with balsamic vinegar, a healthy chunk of watermelon and some tea. And it took me less than ten minutes to make, I kid you not.
Pasta – Kids love it, parents love it, your grandparents love it, there’s only one person on Earth who doesn’t like pasta, and we don’t talk about him. But the trick is to make it in advance, and to drown it in vegetables. For example, on a weekend make four or five servings of pasta and seal them in an airtight container in the fridge, where they’ll keep for around five days. You can microwave a cup of pasta and add tomatoes, an organic marinara sauce and maybe some mozzarella cheese for an easy meal. My new found love, however, is the pasta salad. I don’t reheat my pasta, but instead add tofu and fresh vegetables like peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and onions, and top it off with a bit of sesame oil. It’s light and refreshing in the summer, not to mention very easy to put together and very filling.
Whether you have teenage children or are a teenager yourself, you really owe it to yourself and to your body too eat the right food. And not having time to prepare a meal is an extremely lame excuse.
Lior Torenberg is a high school Senior, avid foodie and health-fanatic. She runs her own blog focused on yoga and the power of clean eating. Her goal is to present the new generation’s voice on health and wellness.