Just because a food calls itself “healthy” doesn’t mean it is. You have to look beyond the labels and check out the ingredients to see which foods are the real deal and which are just a gimmick. Here’s a cheat sheet of four foods that you might think of as “healthy snacks” that are really not.
Look at the ingredients and you will often find potato flour, cornmeal and rice flour as the mainstays. All that starch means big-time calories. If you’re looking to splurge, treat yourself to potato chips or pretzels. There isn’t all that much difference in terms of carbs and protein, and most people like the old standards better.
Bottom line: If you really want to be healthy, stick with actual veggies. Crunch yourself silly with carrots, bell pepper slices or cucumber wedges.
It’s hard to find a snack that kids love that you can feel good about giving them. That’s why fruit snacks seem like the sweet spot, right? Nope. Sure there might be a smidgen of fruit in there, but it’s accompanied by a cornucopia of corn syrup, gelatin, modified cornstarch and a host of artificial flavors.
Bottom line: Stick with real fruit. Mix up a fruit salad for the kiddos with fresh blueberries, apple chunks and banana. It’s not as convenient, but it is actually food.
Vegan cookies are a prime example of a booby trap. They often are full of refined sugar and refined flour and are totally lacking in fiber and other nutrients. One brand lists a serving as half of a cookie. If you don’t realize that and gobble down a whole cookie, you will have sucked down 480 calories, 78 grams of carbs, 57 grams of sugar and just 2 grams of fiber.
Bottom line: If you really want healthy vegan cookies, you might need to bake your own. Throw in some whole foods, such as almond butter, rolled oats and chia seeds and jazz it up with a bit of cinnamon, maple syrup and vanilla.
Trail mix varies widely depending on the brand. Many contain dried fruit that’s been drenched with sugar and then treated with artificial preservatives. Then they throw in candy-coated milk chocolate orbs. This style of trail mix packs a hefty 200 calories into a golf-ball size serving, with little nutritional substance.
Bottom line: As with vegan cookies, you might have to DIY. Start with a base of nuts (think almonds, walnuts, pecans or pistachios) and seeds (pumpkin or sunflower) and then give it some zing with unsweetened chunks of dried fruit (go with chopped dried figs, plums or dried cherries). Chocolate lovers might want to toss in some dark chocolate.