If you’re a parent of tweens and teens, then you will probably have noticed your monthly grocery bill increase - at the same time wondering why the fridge is always empty! The tween and teen years are full of rapid growth and development, which requires consistent nutrient-dense snacks and meals to fuel their ever growing bodies.
The onset of adolescence brings about many changes for our kids, with a growing independence and the increasing influence of their peers, it can make finding snacks that your tweens & teens will actually eat seem like an impossible task. If your kids eat from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed, it is important to understand that they require optimal intake of both macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which can help support their growth and development, as well as provide them the energy they need to tackle the challenges of everyday life.
With many of the favoured teen snacks being high in refined grains, added sugars, fats and salt, knowing what to feed your kids, and how often to feed them can be confusing. Here are my top 5 smart snacking tips for parents of tweens & teens:
1. Keep a variety of nourishing snack options available
While teens will have more independence over the food choices they make, it is still important for parents to ensure they provide nutritious options that are not only readily available, but ready to eat. Stock a variety of options such as proteins, grains, dairy, fruit & veg, healthy fats, sweet and salty, prepare ready to go in containers & ziplock bags.
2. Let them eat until they are satisfied
How much your tween & teen eat for a snack or a main meal is up to them. Try to resist the urge to comment on how much or little they are consuming.
3. Be a role model
While you can remind your children about healthy eating as much as you want, role modelling positive food behaviours can often be a more constructive way to show your kids what eating a balance diet looks like. Get the kids in the kitchen once a week to cook a meal with you, and try to have as many family meals per week as you can. Sit down to eat, enjoy a home-cooked meal, and turn off distractions such as phones, ipads, computers, & tv’s!
4. Practice food neutrality
Try to avoid labelling foods as “good or bad” “healthy or unhealthy”. Also don’t try to restrict their access to one type of food over the other, by only stocking “healthy foods” at home. Instead, focus on all types of foods and teach them how to practice moderation.
5. Offer consistent meals
Snacks are a great way to bridge the gap between meals, providing extra calories for active teens. However, try not to allow them to replace meals. Offer your tween & teen 3 meals a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner, and offer snacks in-between to promote good eating habits.