22 answers

Need Nutritious Snacks and Meal Ideas for Growing 12 Year Old Boy

Hello! I have a big and tall barely 12 year old son. He is 5'6" amd 196 lbs. We recently took him to the doctor for a scout physical and 7th grade immunizations. The doc was concerned about his weight and we did a fasting bloodtest and full panel bloodwork done on him. Everything came back in the normal range but we are now going to a nutritionist tommorow for help on his diet. I just wanted to get some ideas from anyone who may have been thru this as well and get some ideas for snacks and meals. Of course the whole family will also be following his diet restrictions as well. (me and dad could use the help too!) Here's some of the things he absolutely will not eat... Eggs of any kind, yogurt, most cooked veggies unless they come from a can or are potatoes, salad or lettuce, tomatoes, most raw veggies (with the exception of carrots), honey, grapes, rasins, most fruit with the exception of watermelon, and the list goes on. Also are there any healthy substitutes for soda and koolaid that don't have the nasty sugarfree after-taste? Any suggestions would be great! Thanks moms!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Juice Squeeze was my answer to quitting soda when I was pregnant. It's delicious and is juice and carbonization. Not totally healthy, but it has great flavor to "bring you down" so to speak. Also, Reed's Ginger Beer (aka Ginger Brew) is a very strong ginger ale...delicious!

Hi J..

A great alternative to soda is 1/2 juice with 1/2 seltzer water, sparkling water or club soda. I do this for my kids birthday parties as a special treat. They love it and you've diluted the juice and there is the fun of carbonation. Don't feel bad about canned veggies. Most now come in no salt added and are canned at the peak of freshness. Best Wishes!

More Answers

Sheesh, I dont understand why people think that forcing a kid to do anything is going to help the situation, or is good advice for you either! I certainly think you should have a heart to heart with him about the eating habits. Why don't you relate yourself to him- let him know you used to hate things- or even better, have dad do it! Let hubby do it and then the two of them take over grocery shopping for a week. Explain to your hubby he can't get anything processed. NOTHING. They have to find other alternatives and make it as healthy as possible. He wants sweets? Then they'll need to pick up some whole wheat flour, unrefined sugar or honey, eggs with Omega-3s, etc etc. If its about the two of them hanging out and being challenged, maybe he'd be more accepting of it. When you send them out the door, or he comes with you to the store, make sure to tell him that today we're going to try one new thing. We've done that as a family and really found some interesting things. We don't like regular mangoes- but the atulfo ones are creamy, milder, and sweeter. We buy those at Costco now in the 6 pack. We like golden kiwi, raw coconut, and a myriad of other things. Make it a challenge to find new things, or new recipes he can help you make that have out of the ordinary ingredients.(kale, arugula-both are leafy greens like lettuce, but wont look like that to him)
Also, two things that have been mentioned- IZZE juice- we get ours at Costco and when we were cutting out soda, this was what my husband LOVED. Make sure to serve them really cold, and they are a bit fizzier than soda. My favorite was the tangerine- it tastes like a tart orange soda. My husband has high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as a problem with his kidneys that exacerbate the HBP- I'm SURE that this was because of his eating habits as a kid and what his mom fed to him. It was crucial for us to change the way we eat. Luckily, he's lost about 20 lbs in two and a half months!!!
Second- hummus! High in protein, however, it does have a different texture. Its just groud chickpeas(garbanzos) and some kids dont like the texture of legumes. Its something you can introduce to him slowly though. Try an original variety, and if he doesnt like that, let him choose another type. There's tons of flavors to choose from and most have no additives(read labels like crazy from now on!)
Another thing we've done is remove red dye from both our kids' diets. Its made a huge difference and although its REALLY hard(red dye is in jello's chocolate pudding) its so worth it. I've become a label reader for everything. Whole Foods or Sunflower Farmer's Market, both have organic options for candy that are made using unrefined sugars and vegetable/fruit juices for coloring. Because your son is older that will be hard to control- but my 3 yo already knows "NO RED DYE!!!" Its hilarious.
Good Luck on everything- is certainly is not fun trying to change habits. We're still in the process. Make sure you let him know that its ok if sometimes we revert back. Accidents happen and occassionally (especially at social events like bd parties or school events) its ok to have something processed. But ask him to try and see how he feels after eating that processed stuff, compared to a homebaked whole wheat cookie or cake. Once you get him acclimated with more healthy options, he'll surely notice a difference in taste, but also how it makes his insides feel!

Juice Squeeze was my answer to quitting soda when I was pregnant. It's delicious and is juice and carbonization. Not totally healthy, but it has great flavor to "bring you down" so to speak. Also, Reed's Ginger Beer (aka Ginger Brew) is a very strong ginger ale...delicious!

Hi J.,

I just want to encourage you to make the changes. You guys can do it! Believe in your ability to eat right.

I cut out refined sugars and many processed foods over 5 years ago and I have no regrets. Once I started it, it was tough initially- I had to have tasty, natural foods on hand that I could go to when my sugar cravings came on. But then all fruits started to taste sweeter, like candy! Even vegetables became sweeter.

Many children and adults, I think, in the US, are addicted to sugar/processed foods. I recognized I was a sugar addict and decided it just didn't have a place in my diet anymore if I wanted to maintain good health.

Now my kids only have whole food choices in our house. The changes happened one by one, gradually. But we are a lot better off today than we would be, if we hadn't made those changes. Your kids won't starve. Sooner or later, they're going to learn how to eat whole foods, if that's the only thing that's available in the house.

It's going to be tough, but you've got to do it. You will love yourself in the end for doing it. And your children will thank you someday.

Check out: www.greensmoothiegirl.com She's got some good whole foods recipes and teaches families how to make those changes in their diets. But there are tons of options out there besides her even. I recently read, "The Eat-Clean Diet" for families. Awesome book.

The short and long of it is that the kids need to learn how to eat fruits and vegetables if they truly want to have a healthy, active, fulfilling life long-term, through old age. We show them how. Real foods, I mean the kind that grow right out of the earth, should make up the majority of our diet. Trust me, you will see significant changes in how you feel and look- I've been there!

There are thousands of recipes on-line, you just have to search them out. Good luck with the big changes- I support you 100%!

It sounds like your family is going to be in for some big changes. I know that may not come easy, and you're going to have to be firm and persistent. It's going to be a big job for you to change how you shop and cook, but I think you'll see rewards for everyone -- all of you will feel better. You'll see better behavior and health with the kids in time, which will help all of you throughout your lives. This will be one of the best gifts you give your kids, to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

I strongly suggest that you explore the Dr. Sears LEAN site - it has really good nutritional info:


This may help you become aware of ways that your diet may have been contributing to your son's problems, and may help you see some places to start making changes.

I think you need to begin by purging the junk out of the house, and stop buying anything that's full of sugar and artificial ingredients (generally, any processed foods). Go as natural as you can - if it grew that way, it's ok to buy. If it's manufactured with ingredients you can't pronounce, leave it at the store. Packaged foods are almost always full of sugars, fats, salt, refined flours and preservatives. Better to find fresh, natural foods that offer nutrition instead.

Don't buy soda or koolaid or any other sugar drink, period. Buy milk and that's it. If you really want other drinks in the house, maybe make fresh iced tea or get juice that is 100% juice (preferably not apple because that's essentially nothing but sugar). Stick with milk or water.

My rule is (pretty much) one-a-day. One treat: if it's a soda, that's it, or if it's ice cream or cookies or what have you - but those have to be considered 'extras'. My kids generally can have a soda about once a week or less. If you are buying boxed cereal, you may have to switch to healthier kinds. Or switch to natural oatmeal and cook it from scratch, and add your own cinnamon, brown sugar, etc.

It sounds like you are going to sort of have to start from scratch. For lunches I would think you could make healthy sandwiches and offer some fruit, salads, maybe trail mix... I know these are out of your son's repertoire now, but he is going to have to change some habits. Just don't buy chips, doritos, gatorade, and other packaged dessert items. For snacks, sometimes I'll make oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips. Yes there's chocolate in them, which the kids like of course, but the oatmeal is healthy, and I can substitute whole wheat flour and reduce the sugar in the recipe without them knowing.

I don't know what you typically make for dinners, but I would think in terms of a meat or protein component like grilled chicken, fish, etc, plus a vegetable (could be cooked veggies or salad or even cut up raw veggies arranged on a plate... you may be surprised - when offered in different arrangements, kids will try them because they look good); and then a carb. You'll need to be careful with this. Potatoes, rice, pasta are the usual standby's in our country, but there are so many other, healthier grains available.

Will your family eat meat loaf? chicken? fish? BBQ? pasta salad or other salads?

A lot of times while I'm cooking, I will cut up raw peppers (red or yellow), cucumbers, or other veggies. When my daughters wander in trying to snack before dinner, I hand them that bowl - they will munch away, and that way they're getting something healthy. Sometimes my little one comes home hungry and I'll give her trail mix - same thing. It's something healthy so that if she's full and won't eat dinner later, at least I know she got something good in her.

Back to the carbs, whole grains have a lower glycemic index than our common processed ones, and will be better for your son if diabetes is an issue. These can be found at a health food store and generally cook up like rice, with different cooking times. We sometimes cook quinoa, millet, cous cous, amaranth, and others.

Another option is polenta, which is basically yellow cornmeal. There's no need to spend $3-4 on premade rolls you see in the store - just buy some coarse yellow cornmeal. To make that, the proportion is roughly 1 cup polenta to 4 cups water, stirred really carefully so you don't get lumps... If you cook up a batch to the consistency of thick oatmeal, and let it cool off in the fridge (overnight is ideal) - then you can slice it up and use it in meals that way. I actually cook up slices of it in a little bit of butter, and when both sides are brown, put a little salt on it and it's great.

I can send some specific recipes if you would like. We do a lot of vegetarian meals here. Good luck, and let me know if you would like some recipes.

There is a book out there about changing the picky eater http://www.babybites.info/. Hiding the good food for now could be useful, until he accepts the new food.
I agree that you have to get the bad food out, and also sit him down and talk with him. He isn't going to be happy, and it isn't going to be easy, but this could really be a life changing time for him. He needs to understand that, and I think that at 12, he can.
As far as replacements, milk and water is great, but going cold turkey may be hard. He may be looking for that sweet, or it may just be the carbonation. Juice can help, or sparkling water (club soda, perrier, whatever). Perrier helped me wean myself from soda. Also, make sure that he is drinking PLENTY of water. A lot of eating is from people thinking that they are hungry, but really just need fluids. Have him keep track of how much water he is drinking throughout the day. Maybe get him a cool water bottle, and have him put a marble into a bowl everytime he fills it up.
Fake sugars not only give the bad after taste, but still keep the sweetness around, he needs to get away from that. There is nothing wrong with real sugar as long as it is in moderation. Good luck to all of you.

Water would be a good drink that doesn't have "a nasty sugar-free aftertaste." It was my favorite drink as a child, and still is today.
It sounds to me that this diet currently consumed (and not consumed) by your son is reinforced at home... so I would say to start by only buying non-processed healthy food. Here's one way to know if you are buying healthy food very easily: avoid the middle aisles at the grocery store. All of them. If you can buy it on the perimeter of the store, it's fair game. So... you have: fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, and probably breads and specialty deli items.
Foods and tastes are importantly habits, and like any other habit, must be broken when bad.
Personally I recommend any ZONE book on diet. Its balanced and healthy and gives you a way to change your diet for life. You can find it online too.
Carbs are not bad - but you have to know that FRUITS & VEGETABLES ARE CARBS (I never learned this until recent years) so what that means is this - to get a lot of food quantity-wise, you must use veggies as your carb intake - NOT simple carbs like pastas, potato, white flour breads, and junk food. To consume a large amount of food (possibly needed to feel full) it must consist primarily of complex carbs (vegetables) and lean protien (Chicken, fish).

THere is a young guy in our neighborhood that is 2 weeks younger than my son who is taller than me and weighed close to 200 pounds. He started playing tennis everyday and drinking tons of water. He doesn't look the same! He looks soooo good. He probably lost 30 pounds. He is 15 and is about 5'11. He went off all junk food too. I hope for the best for your family.

Well, with that list of "absolutely will not eats" you're not left with much for nutritious snacks. I think it's time to start whittling down that list. When I was growing up, we could only choose one food that we wouldn't eat. And on the nights our family was having that for dinner we could either eat it or make ourselves a peanut butter sandwich. Since he has such a big list, how about a "try new foods night" where everyone has to try something they don't like or haven't had before.
You may recieve suggestions to "sneak" healthy food into his other favorite meals. And while that is a good way to get him eating more healthfully, you aren't actually teaching him to make good choices about his food. If that's the only way to get him to eat it, then do it for a while, but then start telling him what is in there -- and letting him know that he does like it, despite what he might think.
You have a battle ahead of you, good luck!

Wow! He is having a real hard time with the good foods huh? Since you are in kind of a desperate situation you can look into pureed veggies and hiding them in things you know your kid likes (even cake or cookies!) Even though he doesn't like honey, it is a good substitute for sugar in most recipes. He will never know. There are a lot of people out there that state that hiding the veggies and fruit in food does not teach your kid to eat and enjoy the good foods they should but I think at 12 his palate is pretty much established. I think getting some good food in his body is far more important than trying to change a picky palate.

As far as a drink, my favorite treat for my kids is Izzy. It is a soda that comes in bottles and is sweetened with fruit. Don't let it fool you, it really is good and tastes like a fruity soda (just don't get the grapefruit one).

Good luck to you, it is so tough keeping kids healthy these days.

definitely start with beverages, it's the easiest thing to do to take some calories out of your count. go with just water. Many fruit juices have tons of sugar and calories. It might be good for him to have a serving of fruit juice since he doesnt eat much fruit, but that's only about 8oz...not 16-20. Have you tried Crystal Light?? Only 5 calories a serving, and they have lots of flavors. Switch your breads to whole wheat/whole grain. Read the labels and don't buy bread with high fructose corn syrup....I've been able to find several brands and types of bread for under $4 a loaf. check out the book: Eat this, Not That. It is a great book for finding everyday substitutes to make small dietary changes with big results. like switch from this cereal to this cereal type thing. lots of good ideas. good luck

Last question first: The best substitution for koolaid and soda is WATER. It's calorie free and gives the hydration we need. If he won't drink plain water, try crystal light (or the generic cheepie - its just as good) at 1/2 strength. The aspartame/nutrasweet isn't really great for us, and some studies suggest that it may trigger apetite centers in the brain (go figure, "diet" soda makes you hungrier?)

OK, for healthy snacks, he's not going to listen to you laying down the law. I would have the nutritionit create a list of good snack and meal plans (regardless of what your son will or won't eat) and then you sit down as a family and decide what you're going to start trying first. Get his input, because when he feels some control, he's more likely to follow along. And when the list of OK's is from the professional it's no longer mom & dad being mean (well, not so much anyway). Then only have the healthy foods available in the house so that when he's hungry, that's what is there. It really only takes a month or less to retrain the palate to prefer veggies and fruits to chips and candy, sometimes even less. One thing I did when I was changing my eating habits was reward myself for being good. So if you all do really well with healthy food choices for the week, maybe on Saturday you can get ice cream at Baskin Robins or have a pizza for dinner (just make sure that it is the small size ice cream, one pizza for the family, or such, so you don't blow the whol week's work). When we allow ourselves a few "cheats" it's easier to keep to the "rules" the rest of the time.

A lot of our food/eating choices have a ton of emotional components too (how often do you reach for the Ben & Jerry's when we're depressed?) so make sure you all work on finding healthy alternatives to food for dealing with your emotions.

Oh J....we feel your pain! Our 13 yr old is the exact same way about food. It's so frustrating!! Lucky for our guy he has a faster metabolism so his bad food choices aren't catching up with him...yet. I tell him all the time, just because he looks healthy on the outside doesn't mean he's healthy on the inside.

I was an overweight kid, teen, adult...finally at 25 I got my weight under control. I'm now 32 and I still struggle. My folks made me go to weight watchers (humiliating) The worst thing my parents did was take away everything I liked, no candy, soda, snacks, etc. I would just sneak them behind their back. I stole money to go to 7-11 and bought chocolate and candy and hid it. This is definitely NOT the behavior you want.

I think the other moms who said, sit him down and tell him the way it is; are sort of on the right track. Less about him specifically and more about the family. If you engage him in his health not just say you WILL eat this and this....make him a part of the family getting healthy. Maybe say; Mom needs your help to stay on track, help me make good choices so I can be healthy, maybe you can help me figure out what foods to eat that are good for me.

Good snack ideas-

100 calorie packs - This is crucial to my survival. You can stash them somewhere and give him only his allotment for the day. There's chips, cookies, candy, etc.

No fast food EVER rule: with the exception of once a month pizza (or however often you feel is appropriate) This is a rule in our family. We eat subway if we have to have fast food (like on road trips).

Would he eat hummus? One thing I finally got my son to eat was a bagel with hummus and cheese. We'd put it in the oven and bake it. They really are super good.

Pistachios? Even my kid will eat these and he won't eat much.

Water...I hate water, my kid hates water...we prefer soda. :) I am not proud of this little characteristic that was passed on. Instead of taking away soda completely, we made a rule that we had to drink at least a 12 oz. glass of water first...often he gets full from the water and doesn't want the soda anymore...sometimes he does still want it but it's less often. What about the low calorie flavored seltzer water? Most grocery stores have them...tastes much like soda. I would not do Perrier. My spouse drinks it and to my son and I it's heinous. The Crystal Light is a good idea. I drink that pretty often; so does my son actually.

Good luck J.; I know how you feel from every side. I get your son's point of view and yours. Its so hard!

When apples are in season, I buy them by the bushel (seconds, especially), slice and dice and dehydrate them, and put them in ziploc bags. My son, who does not normally eat fresh fruit on his own, eats these. They are inexpensive and nutritious, and do not take that much time to prepare.

Note: I also make all sorts of fruit leather in season with the same result. Another good snack is homemade whole wheat bread. It is filling, so only one or two pieces will keep him going for hours.

When I was young my dad offered us all $200 for going a year without sugar (yes even birthday cakes). It was a LOT of monye for a kid back then before we dreamed of personal iPods and such.

Maybe as a jump start to getting the sugar addiction part of the problem under control you could offer an amazing reward for three or four weeks without sugar. This would give enough time to break the habit (both physical and emotional) but not so long that it seems impossible. There could be a family reward, or individual. Just taking sugar out of a diet dramatically changes what your body craves and finds satisfying. Maybe he can then enjoy foods he never liked before!

Your son is 12. Sit down with him and have a conversation about what needs to happen. If the bad for him food isn't in the house he will eat what is. Preteen boys are always hungry. You may not be able to control what he eats outside on his own but start now so that when school starts he is in the habit of eating well. All of my kids love fruits and veggies over sweets and junk like crackers, fruit snacks that are just gummy sugar anyway, chips, soda, cookies because that is the option they have and now they just prefer healthy foods. If the situation is bad enough to see a nutritionist then you will all just have to suck it up and eat healthy. He won't starve himself. I used to work at a vegitarian preschool and we would have parents come in all the time and tell us that their kid would not eat what was served. Well, we didn't serve junk and their kids ate just fine. Stop allowing junk and he will eat a better diet. It's all about attitude. Yours and his. The best drink in the world is water. If tap tastes yucky to you buy spring water. You will start saving a lot of money eating healthy too.

Unfortunately, he needs to learn to eat those items that he doesn't like. At 12 he should have the understanding that if he does not eat fruits and veggies, it will cause other problems and his weight gain is only the beginning. I have a 9 year old who is 5' and 100 lbs. She seems similar in her list of foods she will eat. Our pediatrician started her career out as a nutritionist. And she layed it down for my daughter. She was nice about it, but stern. My daughter is now eating much better and has lost 10 lbs. As a parent, I would suggest to you as a parent...stop buying the sugar. Yes, they will get it somewhere else. My daughter goes to the neighbors. So I talk to the neighbors. I'm about ready to put a "do not feed the child" sign on her for the neighbors that she wanders to find that I have not talked to yet. But by cutting the sodas and the cookies and treats I buy...it's amazing how she gets hungry enough that she is grabbing an apple or a banana (two things she would NEVER eat before). For drinks, we traded our Koolaid for Crystal Light. It is good to have the whole family be supportive and stick with the diet. Of course, I've gained 5 lbs since then...but that is a different story. Good luck.

For drinks that are sugar free try the hawian punch sugar free fruit punch. They sell it in individual packets to mix with a bottle of water. I am a diabetic so I am very used to the sugar free after taste. But my husband hates it, and he will drink the fruit punch. I buy it at walmart. It is pretty cheap too.

My kids are still young (5,2,& 7 mos) but one thing they'll drink is V8 vegetable/fruit blends. They love strawberry banana and blueberry pomegranate. Just be sure to get the version that's all fruit/vegetable juice (I bought a different kind once and it had only 10% juice!) 1 cup of that juice is a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables. Sometimes it's the only way to get my kids to eat vegetables.

My sister and her 5 kids are doing a fruit and vegetable challenge together. They're trying to eat at least one fruit or veg with each meal and snack. They've been enjoying smoothies with fruit, milk, and ice. She's been surprised at how much her kids want to eat healthy foos when everyone is part of the challenge.

One other idea: whole grain pastas taste good and can give you good nutrition. Barilla plus is my dietician friend's favorite brand.

I am reading a great book called Healthy for Life by
Dr. Ray Strand. In a nut shell, Americans eat way too much processed food and sugar. He goes by the glycemic index and says that we would all be healthier if we kept our blood sugar constant throughout the day insead of spiking it up and down everytime we eat. I am not to the end of the book, but I plan on adapting these rules for a lifestyle change. My kids have not revolted so far when I pack better snacks and make better meals. Good Luck, I know this is a very sensitive problem.

The Walmart brand of crystal light is cheap and delicious. Tastes better than Kool-aid I think.

Hi J..

A great alternative to soda is 1/2 juice with 1/2 seltzer water, sparkling water or club soda. I do this for my kids birthday parties as a special treat. They love it and you've diluted the juice and there is the fun of carbonation. Don't feel bad about canned veggies. Most now come in no salt added and are canned at the peak of freshness. Best Wishes!

I have the same questions as you, but now you have a 13 year old, right? What have you found to feed him?

Mine won't eat "sandwiches" but he will eat a grilled "fish burrito" for dinner He won't eat most vegetables, but will drink a big can of V8 with some pretzels or crackers.

I put nutrition bars in his lunch box for school, but I am still looking for "real food" options.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.