There are lots of healthy snacks out there. Really, there are. The problem is that sometimes a healthy snack can turn into a not-so-healthy snack just by eating too much of it or eating the wrong kind. Here are a few examples for you to watch out for on your next grocery trip:
- trail mix & granola: Yes, it’s packed with protein and omega-3s, and makes for a portable, satisfying snack. But what lurks behind these nutty, prepackaged snacks are loads of excess sugar, oils, and preservatives. Add on the extra-salty varieties and sugar-packed dried-fruit, and there’s a bit of a dilemma. Avoid prepackaged mixes with lots of fruit and opt for homemade batches with unsalted nuts and all-natural fruits.
- hummus: While this garbanzo bean-based dip does offer a good dose of protein, heart-healthy fats and fiber, working it into a healthy diet is all about portion control. Stick to one serving (2 tablespoons) to keep the calorie count under 80 calories. Also, stick to lower-calorie and carb dippers like fresh or lightly steamed veggies like carrots, celery, snap peas, or broccoli instead of pita chips or pretzels.
- sushi: (sorry, Nat…) It’s a healthier dinner than fried chicken, we’ll give you that. But despite the fresh veggies and omega-3-filled fish, sushi can be a silent killer when it comes to calorie counts, often packed with too much rice (sometimes a full cup per roll!), fried fillings, and heavy sauces. Instead, opt for sashimi (slices of fish without the rice), or a brown rice roll with only fresh fish (hold the sauce). Another word to the wise: Stay away from special Americanized rolls that are often filled with extra calories from cream cheese or (yes) even bacon.
- dried fruit: While dried fruit does have some redeeming qualities, varieties with added chemicals and sugar make it easy to question these healthy claims. To pick a healthier version, look for “no sugar added” or brands that use alternative sweeteners like all-natural fruit juice. Also beware of serving sizes: Dried fruit is considered an energy dense food-high in calories, and relatively low in nutritional value.
- diet soda: Diet drinks may sound healthier, but some studies suggest drinking diet soda might actually be linked to greater weight gain than its sugary cousins! Another study found people who drink more than one diet soda per day have experienced a greater increase in waist size over almost ten years than those who avoid the bubblies completely. One of the biggest factors to blamed? Aspartame, a calorie-free sweetener used in many diet sodas.
- Caesar salad: Just because it’s on a bed of lettuce doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Caesar salad may seem like a healthy menu option, but its calories-laden dressing, blanket of cheese, and refined grains make it a not-so-smart choice. In moderation, they’re all fine. But take a closer look, and we have a different story. The classic calorie dense Caesar dressing is made from, egg yolks, not to mention the cheese and croutons often piled high.
- fruit juice: Just because it came from fruit doesn’t mean it has the same benefits. One cup— take apple, for example— can pack more than 100 calories. But some nutritionists believe the real problem starts when people think about juice (or any liquid) as calorie-free— which is clearly not true. But our biggest problem with juice is all about the sugar. Yeah, fruit naturally has a good deal of it, but squeezing it (literally) into juice form just makes that sugar even easier to choke down. Plus, juicing even removes the super-healthy fiber from real fruit.
The takeaway? Most foods (the healthy and not-so-healthy) are fine to eat…in moderation. Be aware of serving size, ingredient lists and other options that are better for you. With a little awareness and knowledge regarding your choices, you’ll be just fine!