Secondary school children

There are many factors than can begin to affect your teens energy levels and ability to sleep, including what they eat and drink.

Teens may look to energy drinks to combat tiredness, but care should be taken as these can be high in sugar and caffeine.

Here are some ways you can help them stay energised:

  • Your teen may be tempted to skip breakfast, grab a sugary granola bar or a pastry on the go. Keeping the cupboards stocked with unsweetened wholewheat or oat-based cereals will provide them with a quick, low sugar alternative that is high in fibre.
  • Staying hydrated will help prevent teen’s feeling tired. You could try adding sugar-free squash/diluting juice to water to encourage them to drink.

Eating out and takeaways

Around this age, your child may be busier or spending more time out and about with friends. This may involve eating out or relying on fast food outlets, where foods can be high in fat, sugar and salt.

Here are some tips to help your teen make healthier choices, but for more information you can visit our page on Eating out with children:

  • If your teen’s portion size seems large, you can always ask for a half portion or offer to share a meal.
  • By replacing takeout meals with homemade versions, you can have a healthier meal and save money.
  • If your teen is having friends over, or you want to spend more time as a family, why not suggest an at home create your own pizza night.
  • Encouraging teens to choose a veggie side dish may prevent eating past fullness, and act as a reminder that eating out can be healthy and tasty.
  • Take care if your teen is adding sauces such as tomato ketchup, brown sauce or soy sauce, as these can be high in salt and sugar.

Healthy bones

It is important for pre-teens and teenagers to eat enough calcium to keep their growing bones healthy. Try encouraging them to have:

  • Dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. However if your teen doesn’t eat dairy, make sure to buy alternatives that have calcium added.
  • Bread and cereal products made with flour will provide a source of calcium. Preferable chose wholegrain or brown varieties as these are more nutrient rich than white. Many cereals also have added calcium, with the best options being low sugar varieties.
  • Calcium can be found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli. If your teen is not keen on salads, you could try blending greens into soups and smoothies, or cutting them up small to add to sauces.


Iron requirements are higher for growing teens, especially girls who lose iron when they get their period. It can be harder for those not eating red meat to get enough, however other good sources of iron include:

  • Beans, such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit, such as dried apricots
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Making a change

How to make small, manageable changes to what you eat and drink.

Make a change