Many of us have gotten sucked into food labels as our whole-hearted effort to eat healthy has blinded us to the false promises on packages such as “fat-free," "multi-gran," "gluten-free," and even, "vegan." Our health-conscious effort can end up backfiring on us, since most of these labels can cost us our health if we’re not cautious about the ingredients and servings they contain. While chips and soda have been ousted as the biggest culprits of unhealthy snacking, it’s time to bust a handful of “healthy” snack imposters that have gone under the radar and may actually be harmful for our health.
This popular breakfast and/or snack food has become synonymous with healthy eating, but it could actually be risky to your heart health. A small amount of granola can contain trans-fat and sugar – both known to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The snack is a carbohydrate that is cooked in fat, which can produce indigestible molecules that the human digestive, endocrine, and eliminatory systems cannot handle, according to Dr. Henry G. Bieler, physician, and author of Food Is Your Best Medicine. The buildup of these molecules in our system can cause toxicity and result in disorders from colds to heart disease.
You can still consume granola, but be sure to read the ingredients, and avoid mixes with corn syrup or other artificial additives. Serving size is key — a quarter cup of granola will suffice and help you avoid the vicious cereal cycle of adding more granola, and then adding milk to the bowl, followed by more granola. Avoid chocolate chips or yogurt added to your granola mix.
2. Trail Mix
A can or bag of trail mix can seem like the easiest and most effective way to healthy snacking, but this food is actually salt- and sugar-laden. Dried fruit contains a large amount of added sugar to enhance the taste, and this amount of sugar increases the calorie count, which also makes the trail mix even higher in calories, the San Francisco Gate reported. Raisins, apricots, and prunes are among the most popular dried fruits that are often sweetened with added sugar. A small handful of trail mix can contain 300 plus calories and is best suited for those are looking for extra calories to burn, not for those who just want to snack. Trail mix can still be healthy, depending on the individual ingredients used.
3. 100-Calorie Snacks
The 100-calorie label on some of our favorite snacks seem to ease our guilty conscious of consuming these chips and cookies, but this doesn’t automatically classify it as a healthy food. These packaged foods are still high in carbohydrates and fat and tend to be easier to overeat because they come in small portions. A 2008 study found that smaller “snack” packages actually encouraged participants to eat nearly twice as much, without any hesitation, compared to those who ate from larger packages. These 100-calorie snacks may help people curb mindless eating, but only if they limit themselves to one package.
4. Energy Bars
Energy, fiber, and protein bars lure in those seeking to obtain higher amounts of fiber or protein in their diet. However, these bars are often filled with high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, saturated fat, and synthetic ingredients that can actually make us unhealthy rather than keep us fit and trim. The high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin are often found in both energy and protein bars, and derive from GMO (genetically modified organism) corn, says Dr. Linda Marquez, a nutritionist, on her website. In addition, these bars can create a hormonal imbalance, since most contain protein made from soy, which is 90 percent GMO.
5. Frozen Yogurt a.k.a. “Fro-Yo”
Choosing frozen yogurt over ice cream seems like a healthier alternative when it comes to saturated fat, but not calories or simple sugars. Adding sugar and fat-laden toppings such as cookies, candy, and hot fudge can actually equal to the amount of its ice-cream counterparts. The Boston Globe reported the amount of sugar can vary from 20 grams in a half-cup serving in the more basic flavors to 52 grams in others. However, if you do choose to have fro-yo, go for the fruit toppings.
Fruit smoothies seem like a fool-proof way to healthy snacking, while getting part of your fruit intake, but this can be doing more harm than good. If a smoothie’s main ingredient is fruit juice, it adds calories without providing the good fiber from the fruit itself. Also, the health benefits of smoothies are negative by the sugar or fatty creams used to make them. These smoothies can also have as much as 650 to 1000 calories, more than a cheeseburger, due to the extreme portions of fruit, vegetables, and simple sugars and syrups, according to Dr. Oz. It’s best to avoid premade or store-bought smoothies and make your own at home.
Next time you want to snack healthy, be wise and read what’s behind the label.