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Your lifestyle, your quirk
I love to snack, and usually feel better about eating multiple small snacks throughout the day rather than a huge lunch and dinner. But while snacks can help you burb junk food cravings and practice healthy portion control, many are chock full o’ salt, sugar, excess calories, and even harmful chemicals, says Tiffany Jackson, N.D., and Kate Kennedy, R.D., practitioners at Cenegenics Carolinas, an age-management medical practice in Charleston, South.
Shape magazine released a list this week of the most unhealthy snack foods. Some foods, like potato chips and diet soda weren’t too surprising, but others were actually on my list of regular snack choices!
Fruit isn’t always good. Canned fruit is usually super-sweet and syrupy, and contains preservatives to expand its shelf life, so it’s no big surprise that it’s not the best for you…but even dried fruit contains tons of sugar! Fresh fruits (and veggies) are definitely the way to go, as they contain way more nutrients. If you find fresh food spoils too quickly (I can never get through all mine before they start to go mushy), Jackson also noted that the cans are often lined with a toxic chemical that acts as a preservative. You definitely don’t want to put that in your body!
I often turn to granola bars for a convenient mid-afternoon pick me-up, but those are also a major no-no. Nearly all of them, even those that make organic claims on the label, are loaded with processed carbs, dried fruit (which is high in sugar), and held together with more sugar in the form of honey. In addition to being loaded with calories, they don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value or even fiber, so there’s really no advantage to munching on them. If you still love them as a snack, make sure you read the label closely before choosing a brand!
Ugh, this list is making me sad; one of my faves – muffins – is on it. I love to grab a blueberry muffin for breakfast, and it’s got fruit in it, so it can’t be too bad, right? Wrong. Don’t buy into the promise of fruit; muffins are packed with artificial flavorings and added sugars, and are usually extra-large, which equals major calories! If you can’t live without muffins, make them yourself (in moderation) with fresh fruit and low sugar.
I’ve also relied on nuts as a healthy snack with lots of nutritional value. But beware: the combination of sugar, fat, and salt makes them very easy to overeat, and there’s also some evidence that roasting nuts can deplete them of some of their protein, and that the sugar and salt content outweigh any potential health benefits from the healthy fats many nuts contain.
Even rice cakes – a staple for many dieters – are not all they’re cracked up to be. Since most taste like cardboard, I’ve always assumed there wasn’t much in them that could be bad. But while it’s true they’re usually low in calories, most are made from processed white rice, which is high in blood-sugar spiking carbohydrates. Plus, the less bland options come with flavorings that are loaded with sugar and salt that negates all the low-cal benefits.
For a complete list of the unhealthiest snack foods, read the full (often depressing) story at Shape.