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How do I get my teenager to eat healthier snacks?

By January 14, 2009 - 4:19pm
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I have a teenager who has always been underweight and needs to eat several snacks throughout the day in between meals to keep his weight up. My challenge is finding healthy snacks that he'll be interested in that will also help him gain weight. He gets bored with things like cheese and crackers or peanut butter sandwiches. When he arrives home after school completely starving, there's no way he'll go for fruit. He always wants stuff like chips and cookies and ice cream bars. I try different kinds of protein bars, but those get boring for him too. Any ideas for a boy who really needs to grow, and who'd rather have sugar-filled snacks?

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This is good for grown-ups too. Thanks Alison.

January 15, 2009 - 2:26pm

oh, and as far as purely "healthy" snacks and not high calorie/high fat, I've learned it's all in the presentation. Here are some of our favs:

- Bean burritos. Veggie refried beans on corn tortilla with shredded cheese. I roll these up, wrap in saran wrap and put in freezer. Microwave frozen burrito for 1-2 minutes as needed.

- Edamame. Microwavable, add some kosher salt and they are fun to eat

- Spicy black bean burger (Morning Star) in pita bread is super yummy.

- Rotisserie chicken with mac-n-cheese

- Black bean salsa and chips. Canned beans (rinsed and drained) with Rotel tomatoes. Microwave. (Some stores carry healthier tortilla chips with flaxseed, organic corn, etc that are 15 chips to a serving!)

- English muffin pizzas. Whole wheat muffin with pizza sauce and whatever pizza toppings we prefers. Bake/microwave.

- Organic fish sticks are really tasty!

- Something sweet: I love sweet potatoes with a tiny amount of brown sugar

- Mini quesadillas

- Grown-up grilled cheese with tomato slices and basil on whole wheat

Hope this helps!

January 15, 2009 - 2:24pm

I have a low-weight toddler who was born a preemie, and have a list of high calorie (also some high fat) foods that we are supposed to feed him--lucky him! I'm not sure if any of these apply; you said "healthier" snacks, but also mentioned his weight needs to be kept up. Does "healthy" mean "nutrient rich" or "low fat but high calorie"? It sounded like you'd prefer he didn't eat chips and cookies, but something with more "nutrition". Here are some of the ones I personally want to eat! :)

Instead of cookies and cake, opt for desserts with cheese: cream cheese, cheesecake, cream cheese danish, puddings, custards. Cookies with raisins (whole grain oatmeal raisin cookies are best!)

Whole grain cereals with whole milk or "high calorie milk" (see below)
Muffins, biscuits, bagels with cream cheese
Whole grain pasta with cream sauce or meat sauce

Dried fruit (loads of calories!) and sweet; many do not have added sugar
100% fruit juice

He can load up on veggies and a add some creamy sauces, sour cream dips, cheese, margarine
Salads with regular dressing

Main Dishes (he may "snack" on a small portion of these):
Curry dishes made with coconut milk sauce (yum!)
Chicken Parmesan or other breaded meat dish
Chicken Alfredo or other cream-sauce dish
Omelets with extras (ham, bacon, cheese, veggies, etc). Make with half-and-half and cook in butter
Egg salad
Chicken salad
Potato salad

- Add shredded cheese to everything: veggies, pizza, rice, casseroles, potatoes
- Add cooked eggs to salads, soups and casseroles
- Add 1 TBSP dry milk powder to oatmeal, gravy, soups and sauces

High Calorie Milk:
Mix 3 oz whole milk with 1 oz half & half

Milk with Carnation Instant Breakfast:
Mix 16 oz whole milk with Carnation

Orange Creamsicle Shake (this is my favorite!):
Mix orange juice and vanilla ice cream (or yogurt) to desired taste

Fruit Smoothie:
Mix whole milk, high calorie milk, and frozen fruit to desired taste

Also as Tina mentioned, nuts and trail mix and healthy shakes are great!

January 15, 2009 - 2:15pm

Because he seems to have a sweet tooth, do you think he would go for something like healthy shakes? If so, I bet your local health food store might be able to make some recommendations. A couple of flavors of yogurt mimic ice cream flavors -- like Boston Cream Pie, Chocolate, Lemon Cream Pie and Vanilla.

Is he a fan of granola, trail mix (kind of high in fat here) or nuts? Some roasted or salted nuts may keep him from reaching for chips. Also, have you tried low-fat luncheon meat? If it's carbs he craves, would he go for flat bread with hummus?

January 14, 2009 - 4:44pm

Hi Kristin-

My brother seems similar to your teenager; a skinny, athletic boy. He is 20 now, but in high school he used to eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese before eating dinner (oh wait, he still does that). Other snacks that are not as unhealthy as chips he loves are hot pockets, soup, and bagels.

Hope this helps!

January 14, 2009 - 4:33pm
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