Does This Count as Dinner?
Making 'Junk' Foods Part of a Healthy Teen Diet
On those occasions when you do eat these not-so-good-for-you foods, here's how you can make them a little healthier:
A sticky bun or toaster pastry. If you have one of these for breakfast, grab a piece of fruit, a cheese stick, or a carton of low-fat milk on the way out the door. Milk or cheese will give you protein and calcium. Fruit has fiber and vitamins. Want to make it even healthier? Swap out the pastry for peanut butter on whole wheat toast, a bran muffin, or breakfast burrito instead. Peanut butter, beans, and eggs are all sources of protein. Bran has fiber, which is filling. "Whole grains and proteins for breakfast will fill you up and keep you going," says Washington D.C. pediatrician Danielle Dooley, MD.
Fried mozzarella sticks. While fried cheese sticks contain protein and calcium, they have a lot of calories and fat, too. If you're lunching on a la carte treats such as mozzarella cheese sticks at school, have them with low-fat milk to drink and some kind of fruit -- fresh, frozen, or packaged in its own juice or light syrup. The main meal served in the cafeteria line is probably your best bet for lunch, however, because it likely includes a fruit or a vegetable.
Pizza. Choose veggie toppings instead of fatty, salty sausage or pepperoni. Then instead of an extra slice, chomp on a side of fresh fruit or salad. It will round out the meal and help keep you feeling full longer.
Soft drinks. Sugared sodas or energy drinks are really best avoided. "None of them have any nutrition, yet they tend to be filling," Beach says. "They're all calories that add up quickly." (If you drank a 20-ounce cola every day, the calories could add up to 26 pounds in a year.) "Plus, we don't yet know the health effects all those stimulants and caffeine in the energy drinks have over time." Flavored seltzer or mineral water or water with a squeeze of lemon is a tasty alternative.