Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Snacking can be part of a healthy and balanced diet, depending what it is that you're snacking on.
While there are plenty of healthy snacks to choose from, a walk down the snack aisle in the grocery store might leave you feeling confused with all the different options. Snacks like cookies and chips are obviously not at the top of the healthy snack list, but there are some snacks that while they might seem healthy, actually aren't.
Here are six snacks to only consume in moderation and some suggestions on what to snack on more often, instead.
Yogurt might seem like a healthy option, especially when the front of the container has claims such as "excellent source of calcium," "made with real fruit," or "no high fructose corn syrup." However, these claims still don't make it particularly healthy. When you choose a flavored or sweetened yogurt, the reality is that many options at the grocery store are filled with added sugars.
For example, a typical 6-ounce strawberry yogurt might contain up to 16 grams of added sugar. To put this in perspective, the U.S. dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugar intake to less than 10% of daily calories. This equals 50 grams of sugar for someone eating 2,000 calories per day.
Alternative option: I recommend purchasing plain Greek yogurt. This way, you can choose to sweeten it yourself with things like berries, sliced bananas, a sprinkle of cinnamon or even a small drizzle of honey or pure maple syrup.
Many people buy and drink sports drinks as a way to stay hydrated throughout the day. After all, if super fit and healthy athletes drink them, then they must be healthy for you, right? Not necessarily.
Unless you are performing extended or heavy bouts of exercise lasting longer than an hour, you don't need extra electrolytes or the added sugar in sports drinks. Regular consumption of sports drinks without extended exercise can add unnecessary calories to your diet due to the added sugar. In addition, sugar-sweetened beverages have been linked to health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Alternative option: Water, water and water. If you want to add a little flavor to your water, try infused waters with sliced citrus, cucumber, fresh herbs or berries.
Granola seems to be healthy, consisting of whole grains often mixed with fruit, nuts and seeds. But many store-bought granola bars tend to be high on flavor and low on nutrition, using fillers like puffed white rice and, if you haven't guessed by the trend so far, plenty of added sugar. Some are also baked in oil, too, making them calorically dense.
Alternative option: Choose bars with simple ingredients with low to no added sugars. You can even make your own at home with a mixture of oats, nuts, seeds and a bit of natural nut butter, honey or pureed dates to hold them together.
You probably already know that packaged fruit snacks for kids are not the healthiest snack, but you might not be aware that dried fruit may not always be the best choice either. Many prepackaged dried fruits contain added sugars, usually to help offset any tartness from the fruit. If you do purchase dried fruit, make sure to find one with no added sugars. However, with or without added sugar, dried fruit is less satiating than whole fruit, making it easy to overeat.
Alternative option: Reach for whole fruits, which only contain natural sugar and are more satiating. Plus, the water content in many whole fruits can help hydrate you, too. You can pair your choice of fruit with a little bit of protein, such as a handful of nuts or some nut butter to keep you feeling full longer.
Pretzels were a popular snack item during the low-fat rage in the '90s and have continued to show up as a prominent snack option today. But while they may be low in fat, pretzels are usually made from low-fiber refined flour and, thanks to the salt, are high in sodium. It's easy to keep snacking on them without feeling full or satisfied — adding extra calories with few nutrients.
Alternative option: If it's the crunch you're craving, snack on some raw vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli or bell peppers. Dip them in some hummus for a balanced snack.
Muffins are delicious, but many store-bought versions are just dessert in disguise. Besides the bigger portion than you would typically bake at home, store-bought muffins also pack in more saturated fat and added sugars than you typically need in a snack. They're also usually made with refined flour, which lacks fiber and other beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Alternative option: Make your own at home. Muffins are easy to make and you can bake a whole batch to eat throughout the week or freeze and eat later. Using whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour ups the fiber and nutrients while mashed bananas or plain applesauce as your main sweetener will keep added sugars at bay.
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