What Is in Your Snack Drawer?

Healthy snacks satisfy morning and afternoon cravings.
Fruits and nuts are examples of healthy and nutritious snacks to satisfy morning and afternoon cravings. (Airman 1st Class Klynne Pearl Serrano/U.S. Air Force photo)

Perhaps you have a special place you keep snacks in your house? A pantry, cupboard, deep drawer or the counter may be places you hide or keep snacks in plain sight. The secret to summer survival is keeping the good snacks in the open and hiding junk food out of sight.

Now that it is officially the start of summer, children will be home all day, likely grazing on the foods you have in the kitchen. Depending on the age of the children in your house, you may need a large supply of food to keep them eating normally when the summer schedule tends to be more relaxed than the school year.

The type of foods you have in your house should depend, too, upon what your kids do all summer and their goals. Typically, households in America have one or a mix of the following types of kids:

  • Athletes who need fuel for summer sports, camps and activities
  • Busy young adults in high school or home from college, maybe working part time
  • Sedentary kids who will do very little all summer but eat and play video games

You may want to arrange a snack and meal program to avoid too much junk food, focus on healthier snacks and meals, and help your kids become healthier this summer.

Here are some options for each type of kid:

For the athlete who plays multiple games on the weekends, travels to hot and humid areas for tournaments and needs fuel for training, recovery and hydration, here is how to consider their care and feeding:

If their competitive days are long with practices and multiple games on weekends, plan their post-long workout/event meals and snacks as the fuel to help them recover and prepare for the next day's events. Related Article: The ABD’s of Nutrition

They will need both food and drink to rehydrate and provide electrolytes (salt-sodium, potassium) to recover from those hot/humid activities that leave them wringing sweat out of their shirts. Get them into a swimming pool or under a hose for 5-10 minutes to cool their body temperature after hot summer events.

If you feel tired or lethargic and you have completed your post-workout hydration and good food intake, you likely need to add some salt to your foods. Nuts, seeds, kiwi, bananas and chicken noodle soup are good sources. I treat dehydration and low electrolytes from a workout the same way I treat the flu -- with chicken noodle soup.

Read more about dealing with heat and fatigue: Half of your fatigue is body heat.

Sources of protein can vary for the teen athlete. Animal proteins such as eggs, meat, fish, chicken and dairy (chocolate milk) are good places to start. If you prefer non-animal proteins, opt for nuts, soy protein, almond milk, whole wheat pasta, beans, peas and protein powders.

I would select pure protein that has a food label on the back with nutritional facts vs. supplement facts. That way, you can be sure it is only food with no other additives. Read more about choosing protein: Protein Supplementation – Do You Need It?

There are many good sources of carbs that meet our bodies’ needs. Fruits, vegetables, whole wheat multi-grain breads and pastas are staples for the needed vitamins, minerals and antioxidants a hard-working body needs as a primary energy source, as well as for recovering and preparing for the next day’s activities.

There are good fats, too. Nuts, fish, olives, olive oil and seeds are great options. Many of these also come salted, which, if sweating profusely all day, the need for electrolytes with your water will help your body work the way it is supposed to.

For the busy teen, who may work, intern or do summer school, you may need to enforce good meals before departing the house. Timely eating of regular meals and not skipping a meal are typically the goals with this group.

Having healthy snacks between meals will help with productivity and dealing with the stress of new environments and activities. If their summer job involves performing manual labor, you have to plan the same way as the athletic teen would. However, if their job keeps them inside, limiting calories to avoid overeating is a good option.

Squeezing in a workout or activity period is critical to their health as well. Hitting the gym, taking a walk or another activity can help to burn some calories, as well as relieve job-related stress.

For the inactive teen, you have to get them out of the house. A basic calisthenics lightweight dumbbell workout is a start; see this 45-Day Plan and Lightweight Shoulder Workout for options, even if only for 20-30 minutes a day. Set a limit to their sedentary activity, and the foods in the house need to be lower in calories but healthier options. There is no room for junk food if they are sedentary.

Consider a trail mix with nuts, raisins, M&Ms, roasted/salted peanuts, beef jerky, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, protein bars, protein snacks, multi-grain chips and fruits for your snack drawer. Keep Gatorade on hand for recovery after hot activities.

You also can stock up on raw and steamed vegetables. Consider a big salad with green lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, carrot sticks and onions, Top it off with chicken or tuna, and you have a perfect meal. Adding in steamed vegetables, like asparagus and broccoli, can be a quick snack or side to any meal.

More ideas on Healthy Foods

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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