Nourishment for High School Graduates: Snacking for Health and Productivity

Welcome back to the third installment of the Nourishment for High School Graduates series. In the first post, I laid out several of the challenges that young adults face when first leaving home and how these challenges affect nutrition. In the second post, I talked about planning balanced, satisfying meals using some basic patterns.

In this week’s post, I’ll talk more about planning out balanced snacks to get you through your day, because you’re going to be busy. Your schedule may be irregular and you may have to miss regular meal times. In order to avoid getting over-hungry and spending extra money, it’s important to take food with you to get you from one meal time to the next.

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Have you ever had a crazy busy day when you hardly found time to eat? By the time you got home, you were exhausted and STARVING. So you did what every perfectly normal person does: you took the time to cook a beautiful, tasty, and nutritious meal from scratch. Right? Of course not! When we’re exhausted and under-fed we don’t take the time to make great meals or great food choices. In general, we grab the easiest thing that we can and snarf it down. Odds are good that we won’t even wait until we’re home to do this, instead opting to hit a drive-thru to quell those hunger pangs quickly. The reality is that when we don’t take the time to keep our bodies fueled, we don’t usually make good food choices and we almost always over-eat and likely over-spend.

Another major problem with not eating enough during the day is that you’re not functioning at full capacity. Your body needs fuel. Your brain needs fuel. As a college student, I noticed how erratic eating was for a lot of my very intelligent friends in the engineering department. I knew they were getting a lot done, but I also knew that if they just had been eating on a regular basis, they could be doing so much more (or at least feeling a whole lot better)! Remember, time that you take out to take care of yourself will almost always come back to you in improved performance.

This is where snacks come in. Snacks sometimes get a bad rap because we think of snacks as treats. In reality, eating snacks between meals can be a great way to boost your nutrition and avoid getting over-hungry before the next meal. This also helps keep our mood stable and keep us performing at our best.

To make the most of each eating opportunity, think of snacks as mini meals and plan them in a very similar way.

Method 1:

Have foods from at least two different food groups.

Method 2:

Make sure that your snack has some protein and some fiber.

In my last post about meal planning, I went into more detail about what foods are good sources of protein and why protein is important. To recap, this includes foods from the meat/beans/nuts/eggs group and foods from the dairy food group and protein is important to offer a long-lasting sense of fullness. Good snack options will be easy to pack and require little or no preparation. Think nuts, boiled eggs, deli meats, cheese sticks, yogurt cups, and peanut butter. Just be sure to take an ice pack if you need to keep them cold.

Fiber rich foods are many and varied. Most will also provide some carbohydrates, which is a great way to keep your brain working its best and keep your energy level stable. The fiber will also help you feel full and stay full for longer. Easy-to-pack options would include whole or sliced fruits, dried fruit, vegetable sticks, nuts, popcorn (if you have access to a microwave), and whole grain crackers. Some options will have more fiber than others and that is ok. It will average out over time. The important thing is to pick foods that are appealing to you and provide you with what you need over time.

Examples of balanced, portable snacks

Apple and Peanut Butter

Yogurt and Granola

Fruit and Nut Trail Mix

Jerky and Carrot Sticks

Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

Cheese and Whole Wheat Crackers

Veggie Sticks with Hummus

Crackers with Hummus

Meat and Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread

Granola Bar and Boxed Milk

With these basic strategies in mind, you can pack yourself balanced and satisfying snacks. Remember, you are worth taking care of and worth investing in. Happy snacking!

Other Posts from the Nourishment for High School Graduates Series:

The Challenges to Good Health and Nutrition

Meal Planning

Upgrading Your Cheap and Easy Meals

Eating When Time, Space, and Money are Limited

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