By Kate Kennedy, RD and Tiffany Jackson, ND
Not all snacks are created equally. We need to look at the ingredients that are used to determine its nutritional value and whether it’s healthy or not. “Healthy” merely describes anything that provides the body with the nutrients it needs to work optimally.
When it comes to snacks, that means the snack is nutritious, that it contains vitamins and minerals that contribute to health. For example, refined sugar snacks like chips and crackers lose all vitamin and mineral content during processing. It retains the calories but has no nutrients (that’s why it’s described as having “empty calories” – it’s empty of nutrients and therefore doesn’t contribute to health).
1. Canned Peaches: Peaches themselves are not junk food, but when they are canned with excess sugar it takes every ounce of health out of the fruit. Opt for the real thing or better yet, grab a bag of frozen peaches that have been picked at the height of season and flash frozen on the spot, keeping costs low and nutrients high.
2. Chips: One ounce of potato chips has approximately 150 calories and 10 grams of fat. If you eat more than three ounces a week, then you will add about seven pounds to your waistline a year. Chips also contain a toxic chemical called acrylamide which may increase your risks of cancer and nerve damage.
3. Rice Cakes: There is little nutritional value in them! Most flavored varieties have the added downside of having sugar and salt.
4. Blueberry Muffins: Muffins are high in fat and sugars. Even the blueberry or fruit ones are using artificial or processed fruit and are no good.
5. Granola Bars: No matter if the granola bar is organic, has fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, or a ridiculous amount of fiber or protein, they’re almost always very high in sugar (which is usually high-fructose corn syrup) and low in nutrients. If you need a snack on the run, you’re much better off having an apple and a handful of raw nuts or seeds.
6. Honey-Roasted and Salted Nuts: Most brands of honey-roasted nuts contain added sugar and molasses in addition to the sugar content of the honey. The refined sugar added to the final product may encourage a more rapid increase in your blood sugar, despite the protein that reduces the impact of some of the carbs and sugar.
7. Fat Free Yogurt: Manufacturers load these products up with corn syrup, which effectively doubles the amount of sugar.
8. Microwave Popcorn: Processed popcorn often contains high amounts of sodium and unhealthy fats, including trans fat and saturated fat.
9. Dried fruit: Dried fruit is loaded with sugar, although not with added sugar. Think of it this way: take any fruit, which is naturally loaded with sugar, remove all the moisture thus shrinking it down to a fraction of its normal size, then sell it by the bucket load to consumers who don’t understand that this little tiny piece of fruit still has nearly all the calories and sugar of the original fruit!
10. Diet Soda: We all know regular soda is horrible for you, but take out the sugar and add in carcinogenic artificial sweeteners, combined with the artificial flavors and colors, and you have a recipe for “The #1 Worst Snack in a Can”!