I recently spent an evening with ten-14 year old girls. We talked a lot about diets, healthy choices, body image and sports. (Interestingly enough, Nutella came up in conversation, more than once or twice.)
Body image is so subjective and easily influenced by the things we see and the reactions other people have toward us. On this night, our focus was on the importance of a healthy body versus a skinny body. This group was unanimous that girls who had muscles looked better than girls with no muscle.
Girls are bombarded with pictures of wispy little things that can’t do a push-up, run a mile, throw a ball or consider playing a game of soccer. It is perfectly acceptable if an active kid eats a healthy diet and is naturally thin, but it isn’t okay for any of us, but especially teenage girls, to be on crazy diets, eliminate whole food groups or feel like we need to “fast” just to fit into a pair of skinny jeans.
As our kids get older and become more responsible for what they eat, it is important to help them make the connection between food and performance, both mental and physical. This particular group of girls play sports (LaCrosse, Soccer, Volleyball) and they talked about how they felt and played better when they ate a healthy meal/snack before a practice or game versus when they ate a donut or candy bar.
Based on the food wrappers on the cabinet, crumbs on the floor and peanut butter smears on the counter top, I can tell my girls are starving when they get home from school. They have soccer practice, dance or horseback riding four nights a week. They need a snack. It isn’t reasonable to go from lunch around noon to dinner around 6:30 pm without something to eat, but it isn’t healthy for candy bars to be the snack of choice.
Healthy snacks between meals ensures you have adequate fuel and energy to do the things you want to do. Eating a snack with low nutritional value does not help you be smarter, stronger or healthier, but it can make result in weight gain, make you feel sluggish, tired and like you just don’t want to do anything! Too often, when a person realizes they have started to gain a little weight, they eliminate their snack, which is counter-productive. Dieting and limiting your food intake results in your body “hanging-on” to calories to prepare for the time of famine. You can’t lose weight when your body thinks it is starving!!
A few simple suggestions for snack time for you and your kids:
- Make a list of your favorite snacks and place them on the fridge so don’t have to think about it. You can just choose from the list.
- Control portion size by splitting out one serving size of snacks into plastic containers or baggies so you can grab and go and are not tempted to eat more than one serving. (e.g., five whole grain chips, ½ c cherries or grapes, 1 oz cheese or cheese stick, 1 c popcorn, etc.)
- Combine different food groups in your snack so you feel satisfied. Include a cheese stick with fruit or add hummus to your chips or fresh vegies.
- Half of the food you eat each day should be fruits and/or vegetables. Snack time is great opportunity to ensure you are getting in all of them.
- Protein is an excellent for helping to stave off hunger. Make sure you eat lean meat or low fat dairy at snack time.
- Eat 100% whole grain. There is no excuse not to do so. You can buy and portion out whole grain pretzels, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc.
Healthy Snack Ideas to Post on the Fridge:
- Celery, Apples or Banana with peanut butter (2T = 1 Serving)
- Whole Wheat Tortilla with Hummus (see recipe) spread on top
- Cut-up vegetables with low fat salad dressing
- Low fat yogurt or greek yogurt
- Popcorn without butter (sprinkle with parmesan cheese)
- Grapes, fresh or frozen with low fat string cheese
- Rice cakes with lightly spread of peanut butter
- Whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese
- Cheese toast with whole grain bread & cheese toasted until golden
- Whole grain cereal with milk
- Whole wheat pretzels or crackers with a slice of cheese.
- Protein Snack Balls
This post is longer than my usual. I hope you were able to make it through the whole thing! After speaking with these great girls and as I think about summer, I realize that I need to make sure my girls have access to healthy snacks and begin to see the link between what they eat and how they feel/perform.
Let me know some of your heatlhy snack ideas for you and your kids! I can add them to our fridge list.