Let’s face it: keeping teenagers fed is a tricky and exhausting, no matter what your dietary restrictions are. But it’s great for kids to grow up with a compassionate lifestyle, and even better when they embrace it themselves. The issue then is just how to keep them fed – and full! – without it being an expensive, full-time job.

My younger brother and his friends, who have somehow all shot up to six-foot-something, treat our house as home base, and I’ve mostly been the one cooking. Over the years, we have found some tricks to lower the grocery bills, save time, and deal with my brother’s groans that he is “literally always hungry.”

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Cook in Quantity

I keep vegan taco meat in my freezer and an extra bowl of pasta salad in the fridge when possible. Label the leftover containers to make them easy to find, especially if your wayward teenagers are as bad at feeding themselves as my brother is. Pre-cooked quinoa and wild rice are also excellent in salads and wraps.

Beans and Rice Dishes

I grew up on the Indian dish kitchari, a mix of mung dahl and rice, with vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes. Lentils or black beans are also great with rice or quinoa. The endless varieties of rices and beans, with varied vegetable additions and spicing combinations keep this meal fresh. From scratch it will take forty minutes to an hour, but can last the whole week. Soaking beans in advance will reduce cooking time, and some beans can be bought sprouted.

Veggie Burgers and Veggie Dogs

Veggie dogs, or not-dogs as we call them in my family, are another easy and filling food. Paired with sprouted buns and homemade ketchup, burgers and dogs are an excellent treat, especially for those less inclined to cooking. Making the veggie burgers yourself can be pretty easy though, if you have a little more time than money, and store-bought has never tasted as good to me as what I make myself.

Healthy Oils and Fats

Many of us health-conscious folk get in the habit of avoiding oil, because it’s everywhere and the less you eat the better, right? By this point, we know how great avocado and flax are, but a tablespoon or two of coconut oil in a bean dish or curry, and olive oil over salad or in hummus, can make typically-light vegan fare more filling. Also, fats are a lot more important for growing bodies.

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Tempeh in Everything!

I favor tempeh over tofu, but tempeh or tofu can easily be added to most vegetable dishes, to steamed greens, or to rice. This tempeh curry is a great example.

Remember Breakfast

Personally I’m a fan of oatmeal with candied ginger or currents, tofu scrambles, and granola. For weekend mornings, pancakes are easy to make vegan.

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Smoothies

Smoothies are quick, delicious, and can “sweeten the deal” on greens and protein you might not otherwise be able to convince a picky young eater to try. We always keep bananas, baby spinach, almond milk and tempeh powder on hand. Flax, hemp, chia, soaked cashews, or a scoop of almond butter are all great protein boosters as well. This Candy Bar Smoothie with almond butter, Mango and Hemp Seed Smoothie and Beginner Green Smoothie are great places to start.

Snacks

Having snacks around has been the best way to keep us all full between meals, or instead of meals when we run out of on time. The old wisdom that snacking ruins your appetite mysteriously doesn’t seem to apply to teenagers and young adults. Try these Simple and Satisfying Vegan Snacks.

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Nuts

My brother’s favorite snack is almonds. They’re zero work! Nuts like almonds, are an amazing source of healthy proteins and fats, especially if you can convince the pubescents in your life to eat them raw. Try these nut recipes.

Granola Bars

For grab-and-go food, this fan favorite is sweet, healthy, and you can pack in just about any dried fruit and nuts you like. Try these Chewy Homemade Granola Bars.

Dips and Veggies

Homemade hummus takes me five minutes, and has been a hit at parties and the perfect snack or meal with bagels or broccoli. Vegenaise makes a fantastic dip on its own, or to add to other dips, like vegan dill-mayo. Cutting up a head of cauliflower, or keeping baby carrots around, is easy and takes minimal time, and a lot of vegetables can be bought pre-cut if you prefer. Almond butter with apples or celery is another good option.

Lead image source: Poetprince/ Flickr

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