Food: The best healthy snacks teens want to eat

Food: The best healthy snacks teens want to eat

Positive alternatives to try, as new research suggests ultra-processed foods may be a ‘gateway’ to more unhealthy eating.

It can be hard to get teens to eat healthy food, but access to ultra-processed alternatives can be a slippery slope.

New research suggests that sweets, pastries and sweets could be a “gateway” to foods for teens, prompting them to eat higher amounts of other unhealthy foods.

The study — presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions in San Diego — was led by Maria Balhara, a 16-year-old student at Broward College in Davie, Florida, who says: “Ultra-processed foods are designed to be excessive — palatable, or designed to be as addictive as possible. They are also cheap and convenient, which makes them hard to resist. Most people eat a lot of these foods without realizing it.”

Bilhara collected data on how often 315 teens consumed 12 ultra-processed foods (including chips, chocolate, and white bread) over an eight-week period, along with their estimated consumption of the same foods in 2019 (before the pandemic). Candy, prepackaged pastries, and frozen desserts have been found to serve as a potential “gateway” to increased consumption of other ultra-processed foods. The logic works in another way, too – for example, a decrease in white bread consumption was associated with a 9% decrease in the consumption of all other ultra-processed foods.

“The good news is that even small changes, such as decreasing how often you eat fewer foods, may reduce overall consumption of unhealthy foods and have a significant impact on your overall health,” Balhara says.

“People tend to think that snacking is bad. It’s not, it’s good,” says Kate Sheeland, registered sports nutrition and public health specialist for Performance Canteen ( “Teens need to eat regularly to keep their levels stable. Blood sugar and keep you focused and in the mood, they are not only studying and playing sports (or playstation), but also growing – this requires regular energy.”

Helena Gibson Moore, a nutrition scientist at, agrees, saying: “If teens are hungry between meals, healthy snacks can form part of a healthy, balanced diet, and can be a beneficial way for teens to get They get essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals they need for good health.”

For both, it’s all about what you snack on. “It’s best to include carbohydrates that are rich in protein and fiber, as they have been shown to keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer,” says Sheeland. But that doesn’t mean you should stop teens from eating exotic food, though, adds Sheeland: “It’s also important that you don’t make teens feel guilty if it’s some kind of cookie. We all have them, showing disapproval or making them feel guilty about something. Eating it generally leads to less positive behaviors about food.”

Snacking on fruits and veggies is always a good idea, but if that doesn’t set your teen’s world on fire, here are some other options to try…

Nuts and seeds

Gibson Moore recommends eating a small handful of unsalted mixed nuts or seeds, as they “provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats.”

Buying nuts at the supermarket can add up, so why not buy different types in bulk online to save some money? You can also make your own blend of nuts and seeds – perfect for snacking on the go.

Cottage cheese – but not as you know it

Cottage cheese may not sound like the most appealing snack in the world, but it’s all about what you do with it. Sheeland is on a mission to “make cottage cheese more appealing,” saying, “Mixed with edamame/peas/scallions, avocado and chili flakes, or topped with cherry tomatoes and Duchess seasoning is amazing.”

It’s the perfect snack, because it’s “rich in protein and fiber,” which keeps you “full for ages,” she says.

pita and hummus

Gibson Moore, a snack enthusiast, suggests making this meal healthier by using “whole pita bread with low-fat chickpeas,” which is a good source of fiber.

If you really want your teen to increase his fiber intake, Gibson Moore is also a big fan of having a slice of barley loaf, and he calls it a “delicious fiber purveyor.”

rice cakes

It’s an easy and relatively inexpensive thing to have in your wardrobe, and Shilland recommends whipping up peanut butter and avocado for a “nutrient-rich and filling” snack.


Gibson Moore describes yogurt low in fat and sugar as “a good source of calcium, which is essential for maintaining normal bones and teeth.” “Add seeds and fruit for an extra nutrient boost,” she continues.


While you may want to steer clear of highly processed white bread, that doesn’t mean sandwiches are off the table. You can use whole-wheat varieties or rolls, and Scheland suggests adding “lean protein and some color, like a chicken salad sandwich, and a wrap with falafel, hummus, and salad.”

“You are [could] They divided the sandwich into two parts – one half in the morning and one later in the day.”

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