When we think about parenting teenagers, we don’t often think about the importance of healthy snacks for teens. We put such a huge emphasis on healthy snacks for kids when they are younger, but we often tend to give them more freedom over what they eat as they become teens. This means that it is essential to TEACH them about healthy snacks to make the right decisions for their bodies.
We know that healthy snacks for teens, like pop (soda), ice cream, cookies, candy bars, donuts, fries, chocolate-covered granola bars, pop tarts, nachos, chips, and chocolate, don’t cross our minds. While these treats are great on occasion, they aren’t the things that I want our kids to reach for at snack time.
Healthy snacks for teens matter. These are the years that will help our kids pave their way for adulthood. Food doesn’t only impact how we look, but it will affect how we feel, our mental wellness, our emotional wellness, and more.
Food and water are the sources that fuel our body, so it only makes sense that we need to teach our kids to choose apples & a sandwich on grain bread over fries & a burger at a fast-food restaurant.
These are not healthy snacks for kids & they aren’t healthy snacks for teens. Today, I wanted to bring you some great ideas for healthy snacks for teens & younger kids that you can use at home!
When our children are young, they need certain foods to help them grow. As they grow older, they tend to pick the things that are tastier, quick, easy, and convenient. Plus, we have less of an influence on what they eat as teenagers than we did when they were young children… where they were only eating what we gave them.
Teenagers need different kinds of foods than even younger kids to help them grow and stay healthy!
There are many reasons why teenagers don’t move around as much as your little kids. Even if they are participating in sports, they don’t wiggle and run around all the time like they used to. Unfortunately, teens also find themselves on electronics more than when they were younger, which means idle time sitting.
(Want to cut down on that? Try these ‘ Swap Chore Cards for Screentime’ cards!)
Body Image for Teens
While it’s difficult to talk about sometimes, we must try to help our teenagers have healthy bodies and stay at healthy weights. The things that they learn now will become lifelong habits and views. That looks different for everyone, so it isn’t about the number on the scale or how we look in the mirror.
We approach it from the ‘health’ viewpoint vs. the ‘appearance’ viewpoint. We talk about the importance of feeding our bodies clean, whole, healthy food every day to stay healthy and strong. We talk about the need to be active and how it’s important to prioritize our health every day. Then we try to lead by example.
The thing is, we don’t want our kids to struggle with body issues. We’re already working so hard to go against what society tells them. They already have to learn that social media isn’t always telling the real story, that the people they see online have been posed, fixed up, and edited. They need to understand that “good health” looks different for each person.
This is because everyone’s healthy body looks different. People come in all shapes and sizes. We also know that if teens feel good and healthy, they are less likely to be a part of a group that experiences these negative viewpoints, according to the National Center for Biotechnology:
- About one-half of teenage girls (one in every two) and one-quarter (one in every four) of teenage boys have tried dieting to change their body shape.
More than one in three girls (about 33%) who are actually at a healthy weight try to diet.
Teens who don’t feel good about themselves are more likely to diet.
Teens who diet…
are more unhappy with their weight
tend to ‘feel fat’ even if they are not
have lower self-esteem
feel less connected to their families and schools
feel less in control of their lives
Two Tricks to Food
One easy way to help our kids stay strong, fit, and feel good mentally is to make sure they’re eating good things every day.
And these are great rules for us too, because eating well in front of our kids shows them it’s possible to give up the sugary, high carb snacks in exchange for less high in sugar snacks. And the best part is, if you implement this at home, especially early, you’ll find that kids LOVE these yummy foods too!
I once heard that “There are two rules to avoid unhealthy snacks. The first is, if it starts with a “C” don’t eat it (unless it’s carrot, celery, and cucumbers). The second, if you can find it in a vending machine, don’t eat it.”
Things to stay away from are: candy, cookies, cake, chips, and chocolate… you get the idea about all those “C” words! These sugar, high carb snacks leave you feeling jittery and then sluggish. On top of that, these things can impact our health, behavior, focus, and more.
The Physical Impact of Non-Healthy foods for teens
There are many negative effects of eating poorly, but it isn’t as obvious to our kids as it may be to us.
It leaves them hungrier.
Much of these easy-to-find and easy-to-consume snacks our kids are loaded with simple sugars and carbohydrates. This means that while they are likely to stop a craving, they will leaving your teenager feeling even hungrier than before within about 20 minutes.
It makes them feel sluggish.
This is caused by the increase of blood sugar and then the sudden decrease once your body has used it all up within a brief period. When your kids eat something sugary or high in simple carbs, the body thinks it has energy, so it gives them this huge burst! They feel great! However, very quickly, they crash, usually within 30 minutes.
It is harmful to their health.
These types of snacks are also loaded with fat, causing your kids to store the fat around the organs – this is the unhealthy truth of eating junk food. It’s not what we see, nessessarily, but what we don’t see that is the problem.
I want them to understand that it isn’t about how they look, but about their physical health – the things we can’t see, like what’s happening inside their body.
List of Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids
Of course, there are plenty of healthy snack foods that start with “C” too, like carrots, cucumbers, and cheese. But our kids might be reluctant to always grab snacks from the veggie drawer, so they are some things we can do to help.
- FRUIT IDEAS: First, try to have snacks ready, or easy to grab. Pre-cut fresh fruit like apple slices and pineapple so it’s easy to pack in school lunches and grab on the way out the door. (You can store apples in water to keep them from going brown a little longer)
Tip- if your child doesnt’ like apples, give them a little bit of this cream cheese & toffee apple dip until they are used to eating the apples without anything on them.
Most teenagers love blueberries, grapes, and strawberries, and those are easy to prepare and keep on hand.
- POPSICLES: Have a kid who isn’t a huge fruit lover? Try making yogurt parfaits or frozen fruit & coconut popsicles. This snack helps satisfy sweet and creamy cravings like ice cream. I don’t think you even need non-fat yogurt.
- YOGURT IDEAS: I buy regular greek yogurt because it has healthy fats in it that are good for us in moderation, and may actually improve heart health! Parfaits are just yogurt layered with berries. What’s so great is that they don’t need any added sugar.
- PEANUT BUTTER IDEAS: Peanut butter is really high in protein, and that means it’s going to give your kids long-lasting energy. If you’ve been buying the sugary kind, try to cut back on it slowly, or start mixing in a little natural peanut butter to help them get used to the flavor. We like to make peanut butter oatmeal bars.
Recently, I’ve seen stores selling other nut butters too, like cashew and almond butter. The selection is getting bigger! This is a great way to start the day, but peanut butter spread on whole grain crackers or celery sticks makes a great after school snack, too.
If your kids like peanut butter, they might also like peanuts or plain nuts. If you’ve never made homemade trail mix, it’s super easy and will help your kids stay full. It’s easy to make and I can customize it to my family’s tastes. We like to add raisins and cashews.
- DRIED FRUIT: Lately, we’ve put some other dried fruits in ours like dried blueberries and cranberries. That gives it a bit of sweetness without including candy, which a lot of people tend to do. You can store a jar of trail mix on the cupboard or in the fridge so it’s easy to grab a handful here and there.
- HEALTHIER COOKIES: My kids LOVE muffins and cookies. So I try to make something like these healthier chocolate chip cookies instead of the full-fat, full-sugar version. I want to make sure they have things they are excited to eat, but also help them understand that we can swap just a few ingredients for better alternatives without losing the taste. Plus… Just putting something in ‘cookie’ form seems to make everyone love it!
- MUFFINS: Muffins are also always a bit hit and cure that ‘carb’ craving. You can also usually add some chocolate chips to muffins without making them too unhealthy for kids who really have a sweet tooth! We love these Crazy Banana Muffins that are high in protein and are SO delicious! If I make a batch, it’s like they mysteriously disappear!
- ICE CREAM: Do your kids LOVE ice cream? Mine do. I don’t think the love for ice cream ends when our kids become teenagers either. They seem to still love it. I make this Banana Nice Cream out of frozen bananas.
It’s such a good snack and one I never have to feel guilty about giving them! Plus it’s made from only 4 ingredients you probably already have, so you can make it today!
I hope this list of healthy snacks for teenagers gives you some ideas about how to help your teens be healthier this fall as they head back to school.
Staying healthy is good for our bodies, our mental health, and our immunity too!
Do you have some healthy snack ideas of your own to share? Leave them in the comments so we can try them at home with our teens!