What do your teens do the minute they get home from school? If they're typical, they raid the refrigerator and pantry looking for their favorite snacks: chips, soft drinks, cookies, candy, pizza, burgers, fries and ice cream.
Here's the problem, according to the nutrition experts at www.WebMD.com: All of those high-calorie snacks and processed foods can cause weight gain. When teens notice that they've put on a few pounds, many stop eating altogether. Unhealthy eating patterns are born.
What's a parent to do? You don't want to forbid snacking. In fact, nutritionists say that snacking between meals ensures that your teen's body will not run out of fuel. The secret is to steer your teens toward quick and healthy snacks that will provide a steady supply of glucose to their brains, keep them from having ugly mood swings and reduce the chances of binge eating. Teens will eat what's available, so use that to your advantage.
Keep your refrigerator and cupboards stocked with what you want your kids to eat. Don't keep what you don't want them to eat.
Substitute healthy alternatives: pretzels for chips; yogurt-based dips for high-fat cheeses and sour cream. Teens like foods they can grab and take with them.
Chop fruits and veggies into bite-sized pieces or strips. Freeze fruit for fun, slushy snacks. Smoothies and fruit shakes are packed with nutrients, and they're trendy. Use yogurt, milk, fresh or frozen fruit and fruit juices. A great way to give the kids their chocolate fix is to add a few chocolate chips or M&M's to a shake or smoothie.
Mini bagels, crackers with a little bit of cheese, leftovers, burritos and healthy breakfast cereals with milk all make excellent snacks.
Here are 25 teen-friendly snacks that will keep your kids and their friends happy and satisfied:
1. Apple slices with peanut butter and raisins.
2. Bananas sliced in half and spread with peanut butter.
3. Bean burritos.
4. Black bean dip with whole-grain crackers.
5. Cheese toast (whole-grain bread spread with low-fat cheese).
6. Chopped vegetables with low-fat ranch dressing.
7. Hummus on a whole-wheat pita.
8. Low-fat yogurt with chopped walnuts.
9. Oatmeal made with low-fat milk and strawberries.
10. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on whole-grain bread.
11. Popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese instead of butter.
12. Red grapes and string cheese.
13. Rice cakes with peanut butter.
14. Almonds and dried cranberries or blueberries.
15. Cheese or veggie pizza.
16. Bagels with low-fat cream cheese.
17. Soy nuts and string cheese.
18. Soy milk smoothies.
19. String cheese and whole-grain crackers.
20. Trail mix.
21. Tuna on whole-grain bread.
22. Turkey and cheese on whole-grain bread.
23. Vegetable soup with whole-grain crackers.
24. Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
25. Whole-grain English muffins with peanut butter.
Keep the kitchen stocked with tasty, healthy snacks, and your teens will be a lot less likely to buy their own junk food.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at [email protected], or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.