During adolescence, the body undergoes a lot of change. It’s a time when many teens experience growth spurts and an increase in their appetite. Unhealthy snacks won’t provide the body with the energy and nutrients necessary to allow proper development and functioning, so teens require healthy and nutritious food to meet their growth needs.
It’s important that teenagers always eat a proper breakfast, choose healthy unprocessed snacks, and limit junk food, soft drinks, and eating out. Healthy eating practices and physical activity can help minimize the risk of obesity in teens. It also ensures they get the extra nutrients they need to support hormonal changes, bone growth, tissue and organ development, including the brain. Healthy snacks for teens also help maintain healthy skin and eyes.
Some healthy school snacks include:
Cheese with whole grain crackers (see below) or some mixed fruit is a great source of calcium and protein. It’s also portable and tastes great!
Whole-grain crackers with nut butter
Whole grains are packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, trace minerals (zinc, iron, copper, and magnesium), B vitamins, and antioxidants. Healthy options include multi-seed, brown rice or whole grain rye crackers, and they can be topped with a nut butter for a dose of healthy fats and protein for a good snack for teens.
Banana bread muffins
Muffins can go either way on the health scale, so it’s important to choose ones that are low in sugar (maple syrup is an excellent natural sweetener) and, ideally, are made with healthier ingredients like almond or oat flours in place of white all-purpose flour. You can replace traditional canola oil with avocado or coconut oil for an added boost of healthy fats.
Citrus fruit salad
Citrus fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for growing teens. Top the salad with blueberries — which are a superfood — and fresh mint.
Veggie wrap with hummus
Wraps can be a great snack for teens who are always on the go. Vegetables like carrots, spinach, avocado, tomato, and cucumbers are good choices, though you can really use whatever veggies you like best. Choose healthy wraps (avoid carb-heavy ones made with white flour) or opt for lettuce wraps for a snack that’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
It’s tempting to reach into the cupboard for chips or cookies if that’s what’s available at home. Instead, stock your pantry with healthy unprocessed snacks.
Homemade muffins and quick bread
As mentioned earlier, homemade muffins that are low in sugar and use healthier ingredients are a good option for a quick snack. There are plenty of muffin and loaf recipes out there that also include ‘hidden’ vegetables, which add some extra nutrients to what is generally a carb-laden snack. ‘Breakfast’ cookies can also be a good option. These are generally made with ingredients like oats, applesauce, nut butter, seeds, and dried fruits to keep them high on the health scale.
Hard-boiled eggs are a great snack that’s packed full of protein — and they take only about 8 minutes to make! They can be eaten plain or sliced up in a lettuce cup with tomato, avocado, and bacon.
Fruit smoothies are a better option for teens than milkshakes. Use frozen bananas as the base and add a cup of milk (ideally grass-fed), a handful of your favorite berries (fresh or frozen), and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can also add a few tablespoons of hemp hearts for some protein and a tablespoon or two of coconut oil for healthy fats that will keep you from getting hungry.
Hummus and veggies
Hummus is made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), which makes it a fantastic source of plant-based protein and healthy fats. Having hummus and pre-cut veggies on hand makes for a quick, yet healthy snack. It’s also great with whole grain crackers.
Yogurt is delicious alone, but sprucing it up with crunchy granola, berries, and nuts or seeds takes it to another level. Plain yogurt (not vanilla) is the best option since it’s low in sugar. It can also be used to create healthy veggie dips.
In addition to the snacks mentioned above, some terrific after-school snacks for teens include:
Crunchy roasted chickpeas
Packed full of nutrients and protein, these crunchy little snacks are a great alternative to chips or pretzels. You can flavor them by adding spices before roasting. Curried chickpeas are popular, but there are loads of different options you can try out.
This power-packed sandwich is made of veggies and cheese, making for a great snack to tide over until dinner.
Homemade goldfish crackers
These savory crackers are much healthier than the store-bought version since they’re fresh and free of preservatives. You can make them in a big batch and preserve them in an airtight container for quick snacking when you are hungry after school.
Teenagers who are also athletes require more nutrients and calories in comparison to their peers who don’t exercise regularly. Nutritious snacks can help you get these additional nutrients and calories into your diets, even when running from school to soccer practice. Ensuring you have a healthy snack before practice also gives you the energy needed to sustain the vigorous activity.
- Options for healthy snacks for teenage athletes include:
- Banana or apple slices with peanut (or other nut) butter
- Celery and carrot sticks with homemade dip
- Trail mix with raw nuts and dried fruit
- Crackers and hummus
- Yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh or thawed frozen fruit
- Whole-grain crackers and cheese
- Lettuce wrap with turkey, lean roast beef, egg salad, or tuna
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
If you crave something sweet
Our bodies tend to crave foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat (the bad kind). Such cravings are triggered by regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, pleasure, and memory. Researchers believe that sugar cravings, in particular, may be caused by poor diet and the use of artificial sweeteners.
So, what can teens have when they’re craving something sweet? Here are some healthier options:
- Fruits. Since fruits contain fructose, they are naturally sweet and usually satisfy the need for a sweet treat.
- Dark chocolate. Chocolate that contains 70% or more cocoa is a far better option than milk chocolate bars with other additives. Dark chocolate is also known for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Keep the serving size to just a couple of squares to satisfy the craving without going overboard. After all, it’s still chocolate.
- Snack bars. Opt for ones made with whole oats and sweetened with dried or fresh fruit, rather than sugar.
- Dates. Dates are extremely sweet (naturally) and a great source of fiber, iron, potassium, and beneficial plant compounds.
- Sweet potatoes. This veggie is highly nutritious, naturally sweet, and filling. Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
Teens have unique nutritional needs since they’re growing and generally expending a lot of energy. They have a lot to contend with: stress, exposure to unrealistic body shapes, increased appetite due to increased physical activity, exams, fast food temptations, technology, not to mention the whirlwind of hormonal, emotional, and body changes that can wreak havoc on their well being and confidence. That’s why it’s important to choose snacks that deliver the nutrients your body needs — and stay away from the temptation of chips, cookies, chocolate bars, and fast food.
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