Feeding Teenage Boys: An Update (Recipe: Quick Mushroom Ragu)

My approach to feeding my family has completely shifted focus over the last year as my boys have grown from tweens into young teenagers.

Their lives have changed along with their growing bodies, forcing a natural shift in our family’s approach to meals and food. A few years ago, I was petty confident I knew how to deal with ravenous appetites and the multiple meals my tweens required each day, and while I did well in that season of parenting, nothing prepared me for the days of packing school lunches for a 175-lb. child.

Please don’t be confused; my children are big and healthy, and the ample weight is evenly matched by the height, as my 13-year-old currently stands tall at a striking 6’1”. He’s the tallest person in our house right now; heck, he’s taller than anyone in our entire extended family, and his appetite just might be bigger than his body.

I’ve replaced traditional lunchboxes with food storage containers, and despite my best efforts to keep a well-stocked freezer and pantry, there are many, many days when I’m ill prepared for what the kids need to eat, especially when they show up at home with three to five friends, all of whom are equally as hungry as my own kids.

Apples, veggies and dip, and small cookies no longer keep these boys satiated; they’re looking for warm, filling food for snacks, and even bigger portions of something similar for lunch and dinner. And lest you think I’m exaggerating, their pediatrician has stated that for my son’s size and activity level (he plays competitive hockey five times a week, plus school hockey and basketball) he should consume 3400 – 4000 calories per day. Per day!

Mushroom Ragu

Naturally, I’m feeding them more pasta and rice then I ever have, although if it were up to them, they would dine on meat for every meal. At this particular age, vegetables don’t hold a lot of appeal, but it’s not because of the taste, but rather that they don’t seem plentiful enough for the boys, both of whom want to see mounds of food on their plate.

So the compromise between feeding them a little of what they want, and a little of what I want for them, seems to have been found in this simple mushroom ragu. The meaty texture of the mushrooms provides a little more substance to their plate, which pleases them. I’m happy to use the veggies as a vehicle for other foods they love, like orzo and bread, which ultimately makes this a meal we can all agree on; I assure you, it doesn’t happen often.

Mushroom Ragu 2

At this stage, I’m a little less concerned about what makes it on the table each meal, and more focused on actually getting my kids there, as their lives are filled with more distractions, commitments, socializing and technology. Serving plentiful portions of filling food that the kids want to eat ensures they come to the table as often as possible, which is just as important to me as what they actually eat.

This mushroom ragu is a meal I feel good about making for them, but I’m also okay serving up pizza and chicken wings on a Friday night. If I cook what they crave, and lots of it, they’ll want to eat at home often, and even better, they’ll bring their friends with them. I’ll just need to make sure I have enough food on hand to feed them all; it’s a good thing mushrooms are readily available and reasonably priced.

Quick Mushroom Ragu

This simple sauce is perfect for pouring over pasta, or a thick slice of toasted crusty bread, and goes nicely with both beef and chicken, if desired. While this may serve two, if you happen to be feeding people with less heartier appetites than teenage boys, you will likely have enough for four.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 233kcal
Author: Jan


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms or white button - cleaned, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 shallot finely sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white wine or chicken/vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper


  • Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter in a large wide skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Add half the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until all the liquid released has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to caramelize. Transfer to a dish and repeat with the remaining oil, butter and mushrooms.
  • When the second batch of mushrooms is nearly cooked, place the first batch back in the pot. Add the garlic, shallot, thyme leaves, and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring for a minute or two.
  • Add the wine and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add the cream; lower the heat and stir until the sauce comes to a simmer. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.


My favourite way to serve this ragu is to toss it with orzo and garnish lightly with fresh chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. The tiny rice-shaped pasta is quick-cooking and yields a similar taste to a risotto only with less work. Recipe adapted from The River Cottage Veg cookbook.


Calories: 233kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 67mg | Potassium: 568mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 550IU | Vitamin C: 3.8mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 0.9mg

Are you feeding any teenagers these days? Are they eating as much, and as frequently, as mine are?

About Jan

Jan Scott is a Canadian food writer, party planner, and mom of two active tween boys. She is the home cook and creative behind Family Bites, a blog inspired by the simple recipes and party ideas she’s put to the test on her family. Prior to making the transition to freelance writer, Jan spent five years as a party planner for a private catering company, but shifted to working from home in order to spend more time with her growing family.

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  1. This looks lovely, Jan – pinning it now!
    As a dietitian, I did some of my training with collegiate athletes – would you believe that they burned up to 6,000-8,000/day?? That’s a lot of ragu! 😉

  2. I’m not feeding teenagers yet, but they’re coming – I have three boys – 2, 7 and 9 yrs old. But I got married at 18, and my husband used to work 10 hr days of hard labour in his 20’s and I used to make piles of stir fry with rice, chicken soup with lots of broccoli, carrots and potatos, stew with lots of root veggies and minestrone with lots of barley and beans with buiscuits on the side. It was a lot of cooking – just for two!

    I fear to think how much food we’ll go through when all our boys are teens. Thanks for the tips – I’m off to check out the tips for feeding tweens, as we definitely have hungry tummies here already.

  3. rebecca snyder says

    I have 2 teenage boys that are year round swimmers. 6 days/ week. 9 practices/ week. About 20 hours/ week in water training. Finding the balance is always a challenge. Having it done when they get home from practice so they can eat and get on to homework. Having it fill them up but not leave them feeling overly stuffed or greasy/ queasy so they can continue the work required.

  4. I’m getting my first taste of this stage too with my two sons, ages 10 and almost 9, and my hyper-athletic boyfriend, 6’2″ well over 200 lbs, all muscle and bone. Besides getting my head around how much more I have to cook, another challenge is trying to keep the dishes healthy enough that I can eat too without gaining weight. My boyfriend and sons can eat almost anything and not gain a pound, but I’ve learned the hard way that I need to throw some chicken breast in with all the drumsticks. 😉

  5. I wish I had even a dime for each serving of various chilies, stews, and pastas I cooked in the day…..gallons and gallons would be an understatement. Bread products were definitely a filler as apathy towards veggies seems to be age related. Thankfully, they always liked whole grain! The biggest problem was keeping enough milk in the house; I don’t think I conquered that until they started to move out. I’d gladly have the milk problems and the boys home, though.

    • Yes, the milk!!! Who knew it was possible to drink so much of it. We average 8L a week right now, sometimes even 10L, and I would say my boys drink less than their friends, which means some families are going through far more than I am.

      • 5 stars
        I have two sons – 18 and 20 – along with a husband and generally I plan on 6 gallons of milk per week. A store with a good price on milk definitely gets my attention!

        And yes, I do make seemingly tons of food. Aimee’s recipe for granola makes me smile. Her Pumpkin Spice Granola calls for 2 cups of oats and she says it can be stored for up to 2 weeks. My recipe starts with 12 cups of oatmeal and I make it weekly. 🙂

  6. When my son was a teenager he would eat a full breakfast before school, an extra-large lunch bag filled with two sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and two drinks, a grilled cheese sandwich when he got home from school, eat dinner with us, and then a half hour later he would be back in the kitchen asking what was there to eat! I felt like a short order cook. I soon learned to make an extra plate of food to put in the frig for him when I was clearing the dinner table, and made double batches of oatmeal cookie dough to have on hand in the freezer. He’s in his thirties now and living far away, but he recently told me how much those grilled cheese sandwiches meant to him when he would come home starving. Hang in there-it goes too quickly. I’m sure your sons will appreciate it when they get older.

    • Love the idea of preparing an extra plate for later in the evening – super smart! Also, I’m sensing just how quickly these years are going to pass. He’ll leave for Uni in just four, and the thought of it makes my heart break a little. 🙂

  7. I’ve been worried about feeding teenage boys since my first ultrasound! Ha!
    We bought a garage freezer last year to get ready – the boys are only 4 & 5 years old 🙂
    I think the biggest difficulty for me (and there are many, I imagine) will be the sheer volume; I’m just not very good at cooking larger volumes. I need to take lessons from my MIL, who raised 8 kids. I grew up with 1 sister, I have no context for feeding boys!

  8. We’re not there yet bit we were just talking about this the other day because one of my husband’s colleagues was like just so you know… Teenagers eat a ton and my husband said, um yeah I remember it well. My son already eats large volumes and he’s only 2 but to the extent that we can predict such things it looks like he might grow up to be a very tall, very broad muscley dude! I anticipate huge food bills. Good thing we grow a lot of our own and by the time he’s a teenager I expect we’ll be raising meat animals again. One thing this child is going to learn to do is cook!

  9. I can relate to this far too well. I have two sons and a third on the way. Some nights I am in awe of how much my husband and these kids can pack away! The five year old is especially shocking when he wipes out half of a sourdough pizza, and much like your boy his weight is healthy. He is just a big kid!

  10. I made this last week and OH MY WORD! it was delicious. This recipe is going to be consumed at least once a month. Thank you!

    I also added portabello’s and it was a great addition.

  11. I really enjoyed reading this post! I’m 30 days from having my first baby (boy) and as my husband is 6’9″ and highly active, I know my son is quite likely to tend towards the same. Most of my thoughts these days are baby oriented but it was fascinating to actually think about what life is going to be like in just a few short years! At least I love to cook!

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