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Teens: smart snacking on the go

Bookmark and Share Between running to class, homework, sports, babysitting and dating... who has time to eat healthy? And when you do stop to eat, it may be tempting to grab something quick like a burger and fries or potato chips and candy. Even though your schedule is hectic, healthy eating can supply the fuel you need to keep going. But if you don't have time to eat three well-balanced meals a day, what's the answer? One word: snacks. Far from spoiling your appetite, eating small, nutritious meals throughout the day can keep your energy level high and your mind alert, without taking up a lot of your time. Why healthy snacking is good for you
What does "healthy" really mean?
Choosing tasty snacks
Treats to try
Do you want to gain control of your eating habits?
Learn more
Why healthy snacking is good for you
“Snacking can be a great way to help you get all the vitamins and nutrients your growing body needs,” states Lynne Nugent, RD, manager of Virtua’s outpatient nutrition services. “You may be noticing that your body is demanding more food all the time; it may seem like you can never get enough to eat. This is perfectly normal as you hit the growth spurt in your late adolescence and early teen years.” Small, healthy snacks are terrific for satisfying that nagging hunger. But you need to pay attention to what you're eating. Gobbling down a large order of fries after class may give you a temporary boost, but a high-fat snack will only slow you down in the end. Nugent advises: “To keep energy levels at their peak, look for foods that contain complex carbohydrates such as bagels, graham crackers or unsweetened cereal, as well as foods that contain protein such as low-fat yogurt and skim milk. Also, snacking every three to four hours will help keep you going when full meals just aren't feasible. Toss some fruit or low-fat granola bars into your backpack so you won't feel tempted to buy fast food or unhealthy vending machine snacks when the munchies hit.” Most important, there's no substitute for breakfast, or some form of nutrition, within two hours of awakening. “A whole-grain bagel with peanut butter on the way out the door or an apple in the hallway between classes is far better than eating nothing at all,” says Nugent. What does "healthy" really mean?
When choosing healthy snacks, beware of food labels that make false or questionable claims. Many food manufacturers are now labeling their products with words like "all natural" and "pure." This doesn't mean that the foods are nutritious. A food can contain all-natural ingredients and still be high in fat. A good example is granola bars. “If you're craving something sweet to munch on, you may think it's better to choose the granola bar over a chocolate bar,” states Nugent. “Although a granola bar may be a good source of certain vitamins and nutrients, it may also contain a surprisingly large amount of fat. On average, about 35% of the calories in a granola bar come from fat. Check the fat content on the package before purchase or look for a low-fat variety.” A low-fat food has 3 grams of fat or less per serving. Choosing tasty snacks
Snacking doesn't have to be boring as long as you have a variety of choices. Low-fat pretzels and spicy mustard or flavored rice cakes topped with jam are tasty and easy. Instead of corn chips, try baked tortilla chips. Salsa can take the place of cheese - or sour cream-based dips. And if you have a sweet craving, try low-fat angel food cake, nonfat frozen yogurt or fruit sherbet. Evenings can be a tempting time for indulging in fatty, sugary snacks. Nugent advises not to ignore these cravings: “The trick is to pick the right snacks to fill the hunger gap. Fig bars, rice cakes or air-popped popcorn are a few good choices.” Treats to try
Here are some healthy snacks to try:
  • Banana ice cream: peel several very ripe bananas, break into 1-inch pieces and freeze in a sealed plastic bag until very hard. Just before serving, run through a juicer or blender with a small amount of water or juice. Serve immediately. Add berries for a different flavor or top with fruit or nuts.
  • Mini pizzas: spoon pizza sauce onto a bagel. Top with low-fat mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggies and toast or bake at low setting until cheese is melted and bagel is crispy.
  • Healthy popsicles: freeze fresh, unsweetened juice in popsicle makers or ice cube trays.
  • Low-fat pita and hummus: warm pita in oven on low setting and cut into small triangles. Dip in a tasty, low-fat hummus. Hummus is available in great flavors like garlic and spicy red pepper.
Do you want to gain control of your eating habits?
Talk with your parents or physician about scheduling an individual nutrition counseling appointment with a Virtua Health registered dietitian. Rather than just restricting calories, a registered dietitian can work with you to develop a food plan tailored to your needs. You’ll even learn how to make healthy fast food choices. Services are offered in Camden, Mount Holly and Voorhees. For fees or to make an appointment, please call toll-free 1-888-Virtua-3 (1-888-847-8823). Learn more
March is National Nutrition Month. To find out more about healthy eating, nutrition and fitness, go to www.virtua.org/kidshealth or www.eatright.org.