It’s hard to believe how hungry teens get unless you have a teen you’re trying to keep up with. Stay ahead of the game by stocking up on irresistible and healthy snacks for teens. Let me show you how!
Are you running out of ideas to keep a stocked pantry for your hungry teen?
You don’t have to rely on the same packaged foods that have become staples in your teens’ diet.
Healthy snacks are a part of your child’s daily meals. They keep hunger at bay and help your rapidly growing teen get the nutrients and calories he needs.
Healthy doesn’t have to mean tasteless, cumbersome to prepare and unsatisfying.
Get out in front of your teen’s hunger signals and fill the pantry with irresistible snacks that are filling and easy to grab and go.
In this article, you’ll learn why healthy snacks for teens are important for growth, the negative side of teen snacking, and healthy teen snack ideas to get you started.
What are the Daily Nutritional Requirements for Teenagers?
You’ve probably heard all the anecdotes about teen appetites.
He’s a growing boy.
She’s going to eat me out of house and home.
Do teenagers really need that much food?
The short answer is – yes.
The two stages of growth when children have the most rapid growth are infancy and adolescence.
Energy needs jump up during adolescence, then decrease when teens reach adulthood. But teen girls stop growing sooner, so calorie needs for teen girls are similar to what they’ll need as adults.
Here’s a calorie requirement chart for moderately active teen boys and girls.
Keep in mind, nutritional requirements vary based on age, activity, and gender, so there’s no one answer for all teens.
If you have a teen athlete, she’ll need enough calories and nutrients to support growth and fuel her activity. On average, males have higher calorie and nutrient needs than females do. Not only do girls stop growing earlier than boys, but teen boys have more muscle, so their metabolism is higher.
So how do you know how much your teen should eat daily?
My advice as a childhood nutrition expert is to encourage your teen to trust his physical hunger signals. Don’t worry if you notice a change in your child’s appetite as long as he’s growing and doesn’t have a concerning weight change.
Hunger signals vary during growth spurts and when your child is more active. Easy snacks are a way your teen can get the sustained energy they need during this phase.
Is There a Downside to Teen Snacking?
Nutrient rich snacks add nutrients and energy that teens need throughout the day.
But teens have more control over what they eat and you’re not always around to encourage the best snack choices. When your teenager is out with friends or gets “hangry” between meals, he’s likely to grab ultra processed foods which can be full of saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.
In fact, there’s a bigger difference between dietary recommendations and what teens actually eat in this age group compared to younger children.
Teens may lose out on valuable vitamins and minerals and have a higher risk of nutrient deficiencies during a time they are growing rapidly. A diet low in nutrients and heavy on ultra-processed foods can also have negative effects on health, even during childhood.
According to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 40% of children and adolescents are medically defined as “overweight” or have obesity, 7% have high cholesterol and 4% of teenagers have hypertension (high blood pressure).
With a little planning, you can have simple, healthy snacks for teens ready to go when they’re hungry (even when you’re not around!).
What Are the Best Snacks for Growing Teenagers?
Snacks are defined as food eaten between meals.
What makes a snack a “healthy snack”?
Snacks with healthy ingredients are low in these culprits: sodium, saturated fat and added sugar. They also provide vitamins and minerals, not just empty calories.
How much should your teen eat?
Aim for snacks that are about 150-250 calories. Of course, you don’t need to measure this at all, but if you’re looking for some guidance here, it’s a good place to start. The goal for your teen is to eat a filling snack to take the edge off hunger until the next meal. Filling up on too many sweet treats or junk food, or eating until full, may lead to skipped meals.
Now let’s get started.
If your child has a tree nut or peanut allergy, replace the nut butter suggestions below with a no-nut spread that’s made from a plant-based protein, like Sunbutter.
When teens are on the go, they need a snack with no washing, measuring or chopping required. As a bonus, single serving packages are available for most of the suggestions below.
You can’t make it any easier for your teen than that.
- Pretzels (look for low-sodium)
- Drinkable squeezable yogurt
- Dried fruit
- Turkey jerky
- Granola bars (check out my guide to choosing a healthy version)
- Apple slices, fruit cups (in water), or bananas
- Snacks bites packs (cheese, crackers, dried fruits)
- Fresh fruit
- Whole grain crackers and almond butter
- Cheese sticks
- Packages of baby carrots
- Hard-boiled egg
High Energy Snacks (with protein)
After a few hours on the field, substantial snacks for teen athletes ideally have complex carbohydrates and protein.
Most kids don’t need rehydration drinks or special shakes. Some sports drinks have significant sugar and protein shakes have more protein than most active children need.
Here are some ideas for healthy food for active teens that have both carbs and protein and are more satisfying than an energy drink!
- Graham crackers with peanut butter or (no-nut butter)
- Half a peanut butter sandwich & milk
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit (skip the kind with candy)
- Fruit and cheese
- Celery, carrots and hummus
- Plain yogurt and granola
- Container of Greek yogurt with fruit or dark chocolate chips
- Cottage cheese topped with fruit or chopped tomatoes
On those occasions when you have time to spare, homemade snacks are a way to shake up the usual routine.
Better yet – have your teen cook.
- Fruit and milk or yogurt smoothie
- Whipped banana “ice cream”
- Homemade granola
- No bake energy balls
- 100% fruit juice or yogurt ice pop
- Avocado toast
- Sweet potatoes baked in the microwave and topped with shredded cheese
- Mini pizza on an English muffin (build with pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella)
- Chicken salad or tuna salad with whole grain crackers
- Yogurt parfaits (layer Skyr yogurt, fruit and granola in a glass)
Tip: Make in batches and store extras. Freeze muffins and energy balls and keep granola sealed in an airtight container in the pantry.
Final Thoughts: Good Snacks for Teenagers
Teens are growing fast during adolescence and this makes them hungry. Sometimes (who’s kidding?! A lot of times) teens grab what they can find while raiding the pantry.
Although snacks can be part of a healthy diet for the entire family, there’s a downside to snacking on them also.
To encourage healthy snacking and different types of snacks, try filling your pantry and refrigerator with a few of these healthier alternative options to boost the nutrients in your teen’s diet without sacrificing taste or satisfaction.
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