Susan Albers Psy.D.

Comfort Cravings

The Best Way to Help Teens Snack Mindfully

6 ways to get your teen to snack more mindfully.

Posted Apr 20, 2018

Does your teen come home and make a beeline for the kitchen? Most teens do! Sometimes they are starving after a long day at school or practice. Other times, they make a beeline to the kitchen because they are bored or stressed out from a hard day studying or dealing with friend drama.  Snacking is a helpful and necessary part of daily life.  But for many teens, it can lead to mindless eating or overeating.  Here are a few ideas for caregivers on how to suggest a healthy snack in a way that teens will listen from the newly released workbook, Eating Mindfully for Teens! 

A recent study in the journal of Pediatrics found that dieting is not healthy for teens.  Instead, help them to make mindful choices.

Source: istock

1. Shoot a Cooking Demo: Shoot a short video on your smart phone with snack ideas or a recipe for a healthy after school snack.   You can be as funny or creative with this as you want (pretend to be Rachael Ray, for example).  Send the video when you know they are walking in the door.  Just making a suggestion can go a long way in helping your teen think through healthy snack options. 

2. Snack Menu: Teens are often overwhelmed by their choices and reach for the first thing available and convenient.  Consider that we tend to order and choose foods off of menus!  Create a snack menu for the outside of your fridge with options. This helps to narrow down their choices so they don't become overwhelmed (especially when they're already tired and hungry).   

3. Tech Drop Box:  It’s important to make your meals tech free.  People tend to eat 25% more when eating in front of a screen. Make a colorful box that everyone drops their electronics in before meals—including you.  Ideally, it may be near an outlet for people to recharge.  This gets them in the habit--no texting during meals or snacking.  When you eat, just eat.

4. Stickers:  Does your teen need some help in making choices easy?  Place green stickers on foods that are “go” foods, or healthy!  Place red stickers on options that may need a “Whoa!”--or a minute to pause and think about it.  The sticker method helps teens easily make decisions without really having to do much work.  It's fine to have a treat, just give it a moment to pause.  When your mind spies the color red, you automatically slow down.  

5. Healthy Visible Snacks:  Place treats out of sight.  Think out of sight, out of mind.  Placing treats in the cupboard helps to cut down on mindless snack on food that is in the line of sight and is easy/convenient to grab.  Research indicates that families who place a fruit bowl on their counter weigh 14lbs less than those who don't.  Teens often reach for the first thing see! 

6. Create a Snack Grab Bag:  We are used to packing lunches, but not snacks!  This is a pre-packed option.  The problem with snacking is that snacks often turn into meals. Creating a snack grab bag is great for school and after-school activities. Fill the bag with their favorite snack options, clearly write their name on it, place it in the fridge.  This will prevent your teen from wandering aimlessly through the cupboard grabbing the first option available.  

Susan Albers is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of eight books on mindful eating including her new book, Eating Mindfully for Teens.

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