You may have noticed that you feel hungry a lot. This is natural - during
adolescence, a person's body demands more nutrients to grow. Snacks are a
terrific way to satisfy that hunger and get all the vitamins and nutrients
your body needs.
But you need to pay attention to what you eat. Stuffing your face with a
large order of fries after class may give you a temporary boost, but a
snack this high in fat and calories will only slow you down in the long
To keep energy levels going - and avoid weight gain - steer clear of foods
with lots of simple carbohydrates (sugars) like candy bars or soda. Look
for foods that contain complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads and
cereals and combine them with protein-rich snacks such as peanut butter or
low-fat yogurt or cheese.
Judging Whether Snacks Are Healthy
Choosing healthy snacks means shopping smart. Be cautious of the health
claims on food packages. Here are some things to watch out for.
Just because something is "all natural" or "pure" doesn't necessarily mean
that it's nutritious. For example, "all natural" juice drinks or sodas can
be filled with sugar (which is, after all, a natural ingredient) but all
that sugar means they'll be high in calories and give you little nutrition.
A granola bar is a good example of a snack that people think is healthy.
Although granola bars can be a good source of certain vitamins and
nutrients, many also contain a great deal of fat, including a particularly
harmful type of fat called trans fat . On average, about 35% of the
calories in a regular granola bar come from fat. And there can be a lot of
sugar in granola cereals and bars. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the
package to be sure.
Be skeptical of low-fat food claims, too. If the fat has been eliminated or
cut back, the amount of sugar in the food may have increased to keep that
food tasting good. Many low-fat foods have nearly as many calories as their
Whatever claims a food's manufacturer writes on the front of the package,
you can judge whether a food is healthy for you by reading the ingredients
and the nutrition information on the food label.
Smart Snacking Strategies
Here are some ways to make healthy snacking part of your everyday routine:
Prepare healthy snacks in advance. Did you know that you can make your
own granola or trail mix? When you make something yourself, you get to
control the ingredients and put in what's good for you! You can also
keep plenty of fresh fruit and veggies at home so you can grab them on
the go. Cut up melons or vegetables like celery and carrots in advance.
Keep the servings in bags in the fridge, ready to grab and go.
Keep healthy snacks with you. Make it a habit to stash some fruit,
whole-grain crackers, or baby carrots in your backpack or workout bag
so you always have some healthy food nearby. Half a cheese sandwich
also makes a great snack to have on standby.
Make it interesting. Healthy snacking doesn't have to be boring as long
as you give yourself a variety of choices. Whole-wheat pretzels with
spicy mustard, rice cakes with peanut butter and raisins, or low-fat
fruit yogurt are healthy, tasty, and easy.
Satisfy cravings with healthier approaches. If you're crazy for
chocolate, try a hot chocolate drink instead of a chocolate bar. An
8-ounce mug of hot chocolate has only 140 calories and 3 grams of fat.
A chocolate bar, on the other hand, has 230 calories and 13 grams of
fat. Substitute nonfat frozen yogurt or sorbet for ice cream. If you're
craving savory munchies, snack on baked tortilla chips instead of
regular corn chips and pair them with salsa instead of sour cream. Or
satisfy salt cravings with pretzels instead of chips.
Read serving size information. What looks like a small package of
cookies can contain 2 or more servings - which means double or even
triple the amounts of fat, calories, and sugar shown on the label.
Don't slip up after dinner. Evenings can be a tempting time to indulge in
sugary, fatty snacks. If you're really feeling hungry, don't ignore it.
Instead, pick the right snacks to fill the hunger gap. Whole-wheat fig
bars, rice cakes, or air-popped popcorn can do the trick, as can fruit
paired with cheese or yogurt.
Treats to Try
Here are a few healthy snacking ideas:
Ants on a log - Spread peanut butter on celery sticks and top with
Banana ice - Peel several very ripe bananas, break them into 1-inch
pieces, and freeze the pieces in a sealed plastic bag. Just before
serving, whirl the pieces in the blender with a small amount of water
or juice. Serve right away. Add berries for a different flavor or top
with fruit or nuts.
Mini pizzas - Spoon pizza sauce onto half a bagel, English muffin, or
mini pita. Top with low-fat mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggies
and toast or bake at a low setting until the cheese is melted and the
bagel is crispy.
Healthy ice pops - Freeze fresh, unsweetened 100% juice in ice pop
molds or ice cube trays.
Low-fat pita and hummus - Warm a pita in the oven on low, then cut it
into small triangles. Dip it in a tasty, low-fat hummus. Hummus is
available in yummy flavors like garlic and spicy red pepper.
Happy trails mix - Combine 1 cup whole-grain toasted oat cereal with
1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup dried cranberries for a healthy
As with everything, moderation is the key to smart snacking. People who eat
regular meals and healthy snacks are less likely to overeat and gain weight
than people who skip meals or go for long periods without eating and then
scarf down a large order of fries.
It's natural to feel hungrier at certain times - like between a long
afternoon of classes and your swim meet. Knowing how much food your body
needs to satisfy this hunger is critical. A handful of walnuts make great
brain food before sitting down to do that math homework. But a whole bag
won't help you add anything - except pounds!
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