September 1st, 2010

Snack Attack-How to Make Healthy Choices for Salty and Sweet Treats

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Photo used under Creative Commons from Janet Hudson

American’s love of sugary and salty snacks is undeniable. The supermarkets are filled with aisle after aisle of snack food choices. According to the Snack Food Association, in a single day (Super Bowl Sunday), Americans consumed an estimated 30.4 million pounds of chips, dips, pretzels, popcorn and other treats.  So many choices-snacking on the wrong foods can add unwanted calories and make you even hungrier when mealtime rolls around. Long term, unhealthy snacks can also lead to obesity in children and obesity-related chronic diseases as adults.


Snack Facts

  • Fruits and vegetables are always the best choice.
  • Nuts are healthy snacks, provided you don’t overdo it-nuts are high in calories.
  • Just because it is sold at a health food store doesn’t make it healthy.
  • Take the time to read the ingredient list before purchasing-you might be surprised by what you find.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight (from most to least).  This means that the first ingredient is the most prevalent in the product, while the last ingredient has the least amount in the product.

What to Avoid In Snacks

  • Don’t buy individually packaged snacks-The extra packaging is wasteful and adds more plastic and wrappers to our landfills. These products are also more money out of your pocket-it is  more cost effective to  buy a big box or bag. Use reusable snack bags to serve individual portions.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners- such as aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), saccharin (Sweet‘N’Low), acesulfame-K, neotame, tagatose and sucralose (Splenda) which could possibly be linked to cancer, headaches, neurological problems, including seizures and brain tumors and obesity.
  • Avoid transfats-it is mostly a man-made fat which raises your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your “good” (HDL) cholesterol.  This increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women.
  • Avoid added sugars-for example high fructose corn syrup- it interferes with the body’s metabolism so that a person can’t stop eating. That’s why it’s so closely associated with obesity in this country. It’s like an addictive drug. There also could be mercury in your delicious corn syrup! So many snacks contain HFCS-even some pretzels.  See if you can buy snacks without it the next time you head to the market.
  • Sugar has many disguises-Sugar can be hidden on many labels.  Look for the words “syrup”, “sweetener”, and anything ending in “ose”-these can usually be assumed to be “sugar”. Try to avoid any added processed or  fake sugars.
  • Steer clear of long ingredient lists-try to stick with snacks with simple, easy to read ingredient lists.  The longer the list, the more processed the food and the more likely the snack contains hidden, unhealthy ingredients.
  • Avoid snacks with ingredients you don’t recognize. Do you really want to eat something with sodium acid pyrophosphate in it?  I can’t even imagine what that is and certainly don’t want it in my body.
  • Say no to food coloring– have been linked to allergies, asthma, hyperactivity and even cancer. U.K. officials recently proposed a voluntary ban on them (and now Kraft Lunchables in the UK are naturally colored, but the product sold in the US is still artificially colored).

I have to digress for a moment back to avoiding ingredients you don’t recognize-take for example sodium acid pyrophosphate.  This long-named ingredient is one of the 37-yes, 37-ingredients found in Americas beloved Twinkies.  Some of the other 37  are animal shortening, FD&C Yellow #5, Red 40 and corn syrup.  For a full breakdown of the 37 things that go into a Twinkie check out 37 Ingredients Twinkie Eaters Ingest. Let me know if Twinkies stay on your list of edible “foods”.

Things to Look for in Snacks

  • Short ingredient list-simple, short, easy to understand ingredient lists are the best choice.
  • Organic ingredients if possible-try to choose snacks that contain organic ingredients-these products will not have synthetic pesticides; genetically modified organisms (gmo) also called genetically modified food and have not been irradiated (exposed to radiation) .
  • Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, molasses and honey rather than artificial sweeteners.
  • Natural alternative sweeteners such as Stevia, which is an herb that is much sweeter than sugar and calorie-free. Be sure to avoid the alcohol-based forms.

When a snack attack hits what are your snack choices?

6 Responses to “Snack Attack-How to Make Healthy Choices for Salty and Sweet Treats”

  1. Lori,

    Excellent information in this post. I like this: “Just because it is sold at a health food store doesn’t make it healthy.” Lately, I’ve been wondering if health foods stores are as harmful as they are beneficial.

    I don’t snack often, chocolate is sometimes a pleasure. But sadly chocolate has it’s own issues!

  2. Thanks Sandra! I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard “I bought it at the health food store so it must be healthy”. It is so important to read the labels and make an educated choice with any food. You are lucky to not snack often-chocolate is my go-to snack also. There are issues with chocolate-but if done in moderation there is lots to enjoy!!!

  3. […] head out for the day so you don’t fall victim to eating unhealthy foods on the run. Try to eat a healthy snack before heading out. I bring fruit with me in the car if I know I’m going to be out for a while.  […]

  4. […] we are searching for a healthy snack popcorn is often the answer. It’s a longstanding favorite in our home. Over the years I’ve […]

  5. […] According to the Snack Food Association, in a single day (Super Bowl Sunday) Americans consume an estimated 30.4 million pounds of chips, dips, pretzels, popcorn and other treats.  […]

  6. […] stores or fast food restaurants for a quick hunger fix. To avoid the temptation plan ahead and pack healthy snacks from home. My kids love to help plan the snacks. I give each of them their own reusable snack bags and let […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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