Replacing junk with healthy snacks: Teen’s guide to clean eating
While snacking is excellent and can be a good accompaniment during leisure time, making it all junk food can have a detrimental impact on the health of teenagers. Learn different ways to reverse the habit of gorging junk food and adopting more nourishing practices.
Gone are the days when food was considered just as a respite from hunger. With several packaged foods available within arm’s reach, and the delicious platters too tempting to walk away from, the definition of food has certainly evolved. This convenience of food availability has also made snacking a widespread practice, which refers to the food consumed apart from the three main meals of the day. Junk or fast food, popular snacks, aren’t just restricted to foods in restaurants. They also include chips, soda, cookies, candy, bars, French fries, burgers, pizza, baked goods from refined wheat flour, and all other high-calorie, low-nutrient foods that people eat multiple times daily.
While the reasons for teens to indulge in snacking are several—ranging from peer influence, stress eating, munching out of boredom, and eating to overcome undesirable emotions such as those related to body image—consuming extra calories without keeping a tab can lead to many health-related conditions later on in life. Thus, teens must learn how to avoid junk food and adopt more healthy eating behaviours.
Ways to avoid junk food
If you’re wondering how to avoid eating junk food, the following are a few tips:
- Have a fixed schedule for when to snack: A study has concluded that adolescents who snack on the run, on the way to or from school, throughout the day, or in the middle of the night, are more likely to skip meals. Hence, rather than prioritising snacks to the point that main meals are compromised, it’s always better to time them after the main course, which can help balance the urge and amount of junk food consumed later on.
- Opt for fresh more often than processed: Food is usually considered junk when it provides a high amount of carbohydrates and fats per serving without delivering sufficient protein and micronutrients. Besides, the various processing techniques adopted can further deteriorate their functional properties, stripping off vital nutrients and fibre. Thus, one strategy to avoid fast foods is to swap them with fresh varieties that are directly sourced from farms.
- Differentiate between hunger and boredom: Snacking is not always resorted to satiate hunger pangs, as it can also spring from boredom. So, every time you open the refrigerator or rummage through the junk cabinet, pause and ask yourself if you want to munch on that junk food, or if it's just a coverup to keep boredom at bay. And if you still really want something to nibble on, then opt for a fruit or some nuts loaded with nutrients instead of packaged goodies with unhealthy levels of salt, sugar, and fat.
- Let the junk stay on the supermarket shelf: A wise tactic to stop eating foods that are not healthy is to stop bringing them home. It’s as simple as that. So, as you pass through the shelves loaded with your favourite fast foods, practice self-discipline and refrain from adding them to your cart. If you’re still tempted to though, buy a single pack with a small serving size instead of overloading.
- Read the food label: Teenagers must educate themselves on what they buy and put in their system. Education may help you make better food choices, and by reading food labels, you can look beyond claims such as “zero fat/sugar”, and truly understand the ingredients that have gone into making the product.
- Don’t munch on a snack in front of a screen: It is a common context wherein teens binge on junk food while watching television, thereby becoming unmindful of the amount they are eating. Thus, one way to avoid eating junk food is to stop considering it as a buddy during your screen time!
- Some other tips:
- Consume balanced meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as doing so will leave little space for binge eating junk food at other times.
- If you’re craving something and the feeling persists, don’t ignore it. You can have a small serving instead as short-term food deprivation can increase cravings.
- Ensure you get lots of fibre by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses as fibre keeps you full for longer periods and may help prevent the urge to reach out for junk.
What should be included in healthy snacking?
To avoid junk food and switch to wholesome snacking, you can make the following food swaps:
- Whole wheat bread sandwich and chaat over biscuits and processed foods: Made with the right type of cereals and pulses with added veggies, sandwiches and chaats are healthy snacking options when looking for solutions on how to avoid eating junk food.
- Crunchy veggies over chips: If you believe deep-fried chips and fries are the only snacks that are packed with the oh-so-delectable crunch, then it’s time to rethink your choices. Baked vegetables with garlic bread and Jowar Peas Pattice are a few smart, crisp, and healthy options! Being plant-based, unprocessed foods, they are packed with phytonutrients and dietary fibre that can provide wholesome nutrients to teens between classes or study hours.
- Whipped yoghurt and hummus over ice cream and mayonnaise: Yoghurt’s use isn’t just limited to a side dish/raita with main meals, for it can also act as a healthy snack and help avoid junk food. Fruits such as apples, bananas, and strawberries can be added to make a fruit yoghurt that would boost healthy microorganisms in the gut. Alternatively, when looking for healthy dip options, instead of gorging on the high-fat mayo, you can include hummus made from chickpeas that’s light, fluffy, and an excellent source of protein and iron. Making simple variations such as Beetroot Hummus can also help increase the dose of antioxidants and makes for a tasty dip/spread or even a plain snack.
- Dark chocolate and whole fruits over sugar-loaded candies: Chocolate is good for you - there, we said it! But hold on, before you rush to binge eat, hear us out - chocolate with no or less sugar is the one we’re talking about, as cocoa is considered a functional food packed with health benefits. Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa or tasty treats such as Quinoa Orange Almond Cocoa Balls is a delectable option when craving dessert. In this recipe, Quinoa provides a healthy dose of protein, while orange is attributed for its vitamin C content that helps maintain a healthy immune system.
- Roasted nuts and seeds over greasy foods: Nuts such as almonds and cashews and seeds of pumpkin and sunflower can be roasted and consumed on-the-go by teens. They’re easy to carry, convenient, and packed with several nutrients, including calcium, iron, manganese, and healthy fats.
Research has shown that excess calories, which can stem from excessive junk food consumption, can shorten the lifespan, while moderately restricting calories can protect the body and brain. There are several ways to avoid junk food and achieve this objective, and we hope this blog can help teens to reap the benefits of opting for healthier snacking options that do not overestimate calories.