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Helping your teen make healthy snack choices can make a BIG difference

June 17, 2015

What is one of the first things a teenager does when they come home from school? Mostly likely they will raid the refrigerator or pantry for something to munch on. Choosing healthy options for snacks can help assure teenagers are on the right track to meet nutrition needs for key nutrients, which are important for proper growth and development. On the other hand, snacking on the wrong foods provide teens with extra unnecessary calories and fat which could lead to unwanted weight gain and possible future health problems. You may be asking, how can I encourage teens to grab healthy snacks?

Below are some ways to help your teenager make more healthful snack choices.

One Plus One Equals Two!

The 1 + 1 rule can be a great way to teach teenagers about nutritional balance. Teaching teens to include at least two food groups with each snack can help them meet their nutritional needs for vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and vitamin C. When teens are involved in snack selection, they are more likely to try new foods and to choose these foods in the future.

To make a healthy balanced snack, choose one food from at least two different food groups.

  • Dairy (Excellent source of Calcium for strong bones): Yogurt, low-fat cheese, and low-fat milk
  • Protein (Good for muscle repair): Tuna fish, peanut butter, nuts, chicken, beef, eggs, and low-sodium cold cuts
  • Vegetables (Provide essential vitamins, fiber, and minerals): Carrots, cucumber, spinach, sweet peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower etc.
  • Fruit (Provides essential vitamins, fiber, and minerals): Banana, apples, orange, watermelon, grapes, pineapple, peaches etc.
  • Grains (Provides energy): Whole grain crackers, pretzels, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, air-popped popcorn etc.

Get Teens Involved

Teens take pride in their accomplishments, so allowing them to prepare healthy snacks for themselves often leads to improved eating habits. Have teens make a delicious homemade trail mix by mixing whole grain cereal, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips in a large container or bag to make a simple and nutritious treat. Fruit and yogurt smoothies are almost always a hit for after-school snacks. Providing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to blend together can help them meet the recommendation of five fruits and vegetables a day and also bone-building calcium. Many vegetables such as spinach and kale can be hidden in smoothies without affecting the taste and texture.

Keep Healthy Foods Within Reach

When healthy food is within a close reach, teens are more likely to make better snack choices. Providing healthy snacks at eye level can make foods such as fruits and vegetables look more enticing.

Tips:

  1. Keep fresh and ready-prepared fruits and vegetables at eye level in the refrigerator. Provide a colorful array of sliced vegetables along with a healthy yogurt-based dip. This can be used to control hunger during dinner preparation and also make a quick after school snack.
  2. Provide individual low-fat cheese sticks to assure kids get enough bone-building calcium for the day.
  3. Use individual snack bags/containers to control portion sizes, especially for high calorie foods such as nuts and peanut butter. Snack packs/containers can also be used to help control portions of tempting foods such as chips, crackers, and candy.
  4. Snack on nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts can provide teens with healthy fats which is essential for proper growth and development. Even though these foods provide healthy fats, portion control should be practiced.
  5. Try to store tempting foods such as candy, cookies, and chips on the top shelf of the pantry or better yet, out of the house. This will help prevent easy access to less nutritious snacks.
Many teens choose unhealthy foods just because they are convenient and readily available. When we replace unhealthy convenience foods with healthy snacks we can often secretly improve teenagers eating habits and also their health.

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