Healthy Snacking Tips for Teens
By KIMBERLY WOLF
LIVESTRONG.COM is dedicated to empowering and inspiring people of all ages to live active, healthy lives. In light of that mission, the Editorial Team has partnered with ShimmerTeen.com to create content that promotes health and wellness for teens.
Snacking gets a bad rap, and that's because big bags of chips or pile of cookies aren't exactly the picture of health, right? But it turns out snacking can actually be good for you -- if you do it right.
Why Snacks Are Important
Healthy snacks, along with your other meals, give you the energy you need to move through your day. Eating between meals helps keep your blood sugar stable, which supports both your general energy and your brain function. Days can be long, especially schooldays, with all the early wakeups and late-night study sessions. A snack or two between meals can help you power from one activity to another.
An added bonus: Snacking can help you with portion control for the rest of the day. Maria Marlowe, a New York City-based health coach, says that snacks "prevent you from getting ravenously hungry and overeating at later meals." The important thing is to stop the cravings before they get bad. You know when you're really hungry, you feel like you can (and will) eat anything just to make the hunger pangs disappear? Instead of waiting until your body is begging you for food, give yourself a small snack when you start to feel hungry.
When to Snack
Even when you're not hungry, you may find yourself snacking. Maybe you're nibbling your way through a Netflix marathon or "eating your feelings" after a breakup. But Marlowe cautions that "snacks are not necessary, and they should only be eaten when you are actually hungry."
"The time between lunch and dinner," she continues, "is typically quite long, and you may find yourself hungry mid to late afternoon, in which case a healthy snack is a good choice to hold you over until dinner." If you have after-school activities, particularly if they're athletic, try eating something right when class ends.
Note: Your body doesn't always recognize the difference between thirst and hunger, so try drinking a glass of water before reaching for a snack.
How Much You Should Eat
It can be tempting to overeat when snacking, and this can lead to unhealthy weight gain. You can check with a parent or health care provider who can give you insight into how much you should be eating and when. People with different body types and activity levels have different nutritional needs.
While you may need to go through a period of trial and error before you figure out your ideal snacking routine, you can start by paying attention to portion sizes to avoid overdoing it. It's easy to go through a whole bag of chips without even thinking about it, but by the time you've reached the crumbs, you may have far exceeded the amount of food you should eat in one sitting.
Start by checking the label on your packaged snacks because a single container may contain more than one serving. Aside from reading labels, you can try measuring out your "snack amount" in the morning and putting it in a plastic bag so that you aren't tempted to overeat. Finally, it may sound a little obvious, but sometimes we all forget, especially when we're starving or rushing: Listen to your body. When you have had enough, put the snacks away.
What to Eat
Cheese puffs and candy might seem like the perfect between-meal bites, but it's best to aim for snacks that are high in protein and fiber and low in added sugar and unhealthy fats. Consider snacks an opportunity to get an extra serving of the nutrients your body needs.
Though it may not be possible all the time, go for fresh foods (like fruit or nuts) instead of processed snack foods (like chips and cookies). To avoid running to the vending machine to reach for something fast, bring healthy snacks with you in the morning.
If you're wondering what to grab next time you need a bite between meals, try these simple healthy options that Marlowe suggests:
* Fresh fruit like apples, oranges, cut melon or banana
* Carrot and celery sticks with hummus
* All-fruit smoothie
* One-ingredient frozen banana "ice cream"
Readers -- What are your favorite healthy snacks? Do you find yourself mindlessly snacking when you're doing something like watching TV? How do you keep yourself from snacking on unhealthy foods? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Kimberly Wolf, M.Ed., is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShimmerTeen.com, a new health, wellness and lifestyle destination just for teenage girls. Kimberly graduated from Brown University, where her senior thesis exploring the history and evolution of sexual-health content in girls' magazines earned honors in Women's Studies. She also holds a master's degree in human development and psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she studied adolescent health and media. She is a national speaker and has been quoted on such websites as CNN.com, WebMD and Health.com.
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“Healthy Snacking” American Heart Association. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.
“Snacks” American Diabetes Association. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.
“Snacks for Adults: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia” U.S National Library of Medicine. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.
“Snacks: How They Fit Into Your Weight-Loss Plan.” Mayo Clinic. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.