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9 Snack Foods: Healthy or Not?Healthy eating is often a challenge, particularly when we're surrounded by so many foods that seem to disguise themselves as good for us. We know some fats are necessary, whole grains are good, and getting adequate amounts of fruits and veggies is paramount, but sometimes the grocery store can still feel like a nutritional maze.
The problem with assessing the health-value of many foods is that consumers are "led by the advertisement on the front of the package, and that becomes a selling point," said Constance Brown-Riggs, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The best thing to do is to pick up a package and turn it around. For example, healthy snacks should be no more than 200 calories, and should have plenty of fiber, little sugar and almost no fat, Brown-Riggs said. Reading the list of ingredients, along with the nutrition label, is a good way to understand what you're really eating, she said.
"Snacks absolutely can be included in a healthy meal plan, it just requires a little bit of thought and planning," Brown-Riggs said.
Here are some commonly advertised "healthy" snack choices, and where they fall on the health-o-meter.
American cheeseSlide 2 of 19
American cheeseWith its high protein and calcium content, cheese is often assumed to be a healthy part of diet, in moderation. But according to Brown-Riggs, American cheese is "processed it's not cheese."
Not only can it have a lot of fat, American cheese also contains sugar and carbohydrates which most cheeses do not have. Low-fat cheddar cheese not only has less saturated fat than American cheese, it has twice the protein of the processed product.
For a healthier snack, opt for low-fat cheddar or other unprocessed cheese, and remember that a healthy diet should be based around whole foods, not processed foods.Slide 3 of 19
Yogurt parfaitsSlide 4 of 19
Yogurt parfaitsExactly how healthy a yogurt parfait is really depends on what's in it. A parfait made of fat-free yogurt and fresh fruit is a great snack that can easily be prepared at home.
But prepackaged parfaits often have added sugar , fat and calories in the form of fruit compotes or added granola, not to mention that the yogurt is often the full-fat type. In some parfaits, Brown-Riggs said, it's not even real yogurt.
Purchasing a "vanilla Greek yogurt and adding your own fruit on top is going to be a much better snack," she said.Slide 5 of 19
Sweets enriched with nutrientsSlide 6 of 19
Sweets enriched with nutrientsThere are sweets that are marketed as healthier because they include important vitamins and minerals, for example, the aptly named Who Nu Cookies. But such claims of healthiness are nothing more an advertising gimmick, Brown-Riggs said.
"People don't eat cookies for these nutritional benefits," she said. Indulging in a cookie should be reserved for that occasional sweet treat, not as a means for getting essential vitamins and minerals."
In fact, it's often better to not even indulge in these kinds of a cookie and snacks, because they send such a mixed message about their health value that people use it justify a bad snacking habit.
Instead, Brown-Riggs said, by indulging in a couple of your favorite treats every once in a while, you can leave your sweet tooth feeling satiated and under control.Slide 7 of 19
Whole grain corn chipsSlide 8 of 19