The grocery store is filled with snacks that tout themselves as healthy, natural, and smart. But, many of these packaged snack foods can be quite misleading. Here are 6 common snack foods that aren’t as healthy as they tend to claim.
Vitamin-fortified cereals. Most cereals have no redeeming qualities. They lack protein and fat, yet are filled with hidden sugars. What’s worse, the quantities on vitamins present in many fortified cereals may be in quantities too great for children, which can prove to be harmful. Attend to your afternoon sweet tooth with some almond butter and raw honey on multigrain toast before reaching for that tantalizing box of Whole Grain Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Fruit leather. Fruit leather isn’t really more convenient than a piece of fruit, and it has loads more sugar. Many fruit leathers have artificial colorings and sweeteners and lack fiber, making them just a little healthier than a bowl full of gummy bears. The whole fruit is always a better choice.
Pre-made trail mix. Trail mix is great for a long day when you can’t stop for lunch, but many trail mixes are just candy with nuts and granola added. Nuts and seeds are great, but chocolate candies and sweetened dried fruit make it an addicting, calorie-dense snack. For a less sugar-centric healthy snack, make your own trail mix in the bulk aisle of your grocery store and nix the candies.
Flavored yogurt. Many low-calorie, flavored yogurts are bursting with sugar. How much sugar? One Yoplait Original yogurt has 27 grams of sugar, or over 2 and a half Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Instead, opt for unsweetened, high protein yogurt — like Greek or skyr — and add in your own honey, fruit, or nuts. That way, you are aware of and have control over how much sugar you are eating. You don’t need to opt for fat-free, either. Fat helps keep you full and satisfied, and can dull afternoon sugar cravings.
Light mircowavable popcorn. This so-called healthy snack is a no-no on two fronts. First, the light butter flavoring often contains diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease. Secondly, the mircowavable lining of the bag contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which the EPA lists as a carcinogen. Not to mention the preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, GMOs, and partially hydrogenated oils found in most brands. This is not a health food. Instead, make your own stovetop popcorn with coconut oil and organic kernels. It takes only about two minutes longer, but is miles healthier for your body.
Applesauce. Many people love to replace fattier foods with applesauce, but all you’re doing is trading fat for fiberless sugar. If you love applesauce, pair it with a protein-based snack, like plain Greek yogurt or nuts, to balance the blood sugar spike.
The processed foods aisles of the grocery store can be difficult to navigate. One good rule of thumb is that if it has a flashy label and claims to be healthy, it probably is hiding something. Scrutinize labels and look for snacks with a handful of recognizable, healthy ingredients, or opt for fresh produce. If you keep your eyes open and use your good judgement, you’ll be snacking better in no time.