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Teen Health

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Healthy Snacks for Teens

WebMD Feature

What's the first thing you do when you get home from school? If you're like most teens, you raid the refrigerator. But snacking on the wrong foods can add unwanted calories and make you even hungrier when mealtime rolls around. Eating snacks low in nutritional value does nothing to make you smarter or stronger, either. The key is to choose healthy snacks that will fill you up and help nourish you without adding too many calories.

Snacks and Your Weight

Favorite teen snacks include chips, soft drinks, cookies, candy bars, pizza, burgers and fries, and ice cream. Yet all of these high-calorie snacks can cause weight gain. What happens when teens notice that they've put on a few pounds? Many stop snacking altogether and begin to "fast" for hours at a time.

The problem is, you set yourself up for overeating when you go for five or six hours without eating. Many nutritionists believe that we should eat smaller meals every three to four hours (instead of three large meals per day). This may help your body's blood sugar levels stay stable. Providing a steady supply of glucose to your brain helps keep you from having mood swings and getting cranky. It also helps to reduce the chances of binging.

Good News and Bad News about Snacking

Here's the good news: the best way to maintain a normal weight (and be smarter and stronger) is to stop depriving yourself. Go ahead and eat a healthy snack between meals, and enjoy it! Snacking between meals ensures that your body will not run out of fuel. And common sense tells you that it's hard to make wise choices at dinnertime if your stomach is growling.

The bad news is that if you make poor choices or eat too many calories at snack time, you'll probably gain weight. If your snack choices are determined by how you feel at the moment or by the not-so-nutritious selections in the vending machine, you're likely to overeat and miss out on important nutrients.

That's why it's good to plan ahead. See the list of Smart Snack Suggestions (below), or come up with your own healthy favorites. Then, post this list on your refrigerator door. Make sure you or your parents buy these foods from the supermarket, so you have a variety to choose from each afternoon.

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