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!

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