I will always advocate fresh produce over packaged goods, but even I admit that there is not always time for fresh. And honestly, sometimes, you just need a good snack. Fortunately, there has never been a better time to be a health nut in the snack aisle because our packaged foods are trying more than ever to incorporate real recognizable ingredients. Some however, are not trying very hard. Because of this, I have become a self-proclaimed expert* at identifying the phonies from the real deal when it comes to health snacks at the grocery store. Brands have quickly caught on that we all want to feel that we are making the healthy choice when going to the grocery store. Unfortunately that means a lot of rule-bending on health claims on product packaging.
I’m sure any of us who have ever been weight or health conscious have gone through periods of obsessing over the calories on the nutrition label. The key (in my opinion) is not in the calories. It’s further down: the sodium, the sugar and the ingredients.
For example: Lay’s Baked Potato Chips vs. Beanitos
- Calories: 130
- Sugar: 2g
- Sodium: 135 mg
- The ingredients: Dried potatoes, corn starch, sugar, corn oil, salt, soy lecithin, and Dextrose.
- Calories: 140
- Sugar: 0g
- Sodium: 55 mg
- The ingredients: Whole Black Beans, Whole Grain Long Brown Rice and/or Long Grain White Rice, Pure Sunflower and/or Safflower Oil, Guar Bean Gum, Sea Salt.
Sure the Lays are lower in calories, but they are also lower in nutritional value. According to the American Heart Association, ingredients are listed in the order of quantity so the first few ingredients are the bulk of the recipe. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Whole Black Beans and Whole Grain Rice over Dried Potatoes and Corn Starch any day. In my opinion, the Beanitos also taste 10x better. They’re crunchy, full of flavor and I feel good eating them if I’m really craving something snacky.
And now for a snack bar….
Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bar
- Calories: 190
- Sodium: 160 mg
- Sugar: 12g
- Ingredients: Oat(s) Whole Grain Rolled, Sugar, Canola Oil, Rice Crisp with Soy Protein (Rice Flour, Soy Protein Concentrate, Sugar, Salt) , Honey, Sugar Brown Syrup, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Flavor(s) Natural, Peanut(s) Flour, Almond(s) Flour, Pecan(s) Flour
Carman’s Classic Fruit and Nut Muesli Bars
- Calories: 196
- Sodium: 18 mg
- Sugar: 6.7 g
- Ingredients: Carman’s Classic Fruit Muesli (Wholegrain Rolled Oats, Dried fruit 10% [Sultanas, Currants, Apricots], Nuts 9% [Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans], Sunflower Oil, Honey 5%, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Cinnamon), Glucose, Natural Vanilla Flavour.
I am always on the search for a good granola bar that a) satisfies and b) isn’t loaded with sugar and calories. They are the ultimate convenient snack but there are so many out there that might as well be chocolate bars. I am obsessed with Carman’s Muesli bars. They taste great and somehow (this may just be me) give me that satisfied, settled-stomach feeling. I’m guessing it has something to do with the low sugar content, whole ingredients and the fact that the fruit used is sulphite-free. Overall, as you can see, they blow Nature Valley bars out of the water.
Okay, this is fun. Let’s do one that isn’t as obvious.
- Calories: 140
- Sodium: 65 mg
- Sugar: 19g
- Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Live and Active Cultures, Strawberries, Evaporated Cane Juice, Pectin, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Fruit and Vegetable Juice Concentrate (For Color).
- Calories: 110
- Sodium: 50 mg
- Sugar: 11g
- Ingredients: Pasteurized Skim Milk, Strawberries, Cane Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Live Active Cultures
This one is tougher. I jumped on the Chobani bandwagon with everybody else at the onset of the Greek yogurt movement. And I’m not here to claim that it’s bad for you because I think there are a lot of other yogurts out there that are way worse. But I can’t help but notice the huge jump in sugar from Siggi’s to Chobani and the few additional unrecognizable ingredients. Ideally, plain yogurt is the best option, with the option to add your own ingredients and control the sugar levels. But realistically, I realize that we all like convenience and a sugar kick in our day. I’ve just found that Siggi’s gives me that same kick and then some. It’s got a very rich texture and the flavor that is added is light but potent in flavor. I highly recommend the Orange and Ginger (citrusy spicy and rich, yum!).
I LOVE that products like Beanitos, Carman’s and Siggi’s are available today. I think it’s a huge win for all us health nuts out there. Organic and ingredient-simple packaged foods used to only be available at Whole Foods and other specialty stores. But every time I go to Mariano’s or even Jewel, I am pleasantly surprised to see their organic selections expanding. However, I can’t say the same for the vending machine, gas station and traveling lunch cart at work. Therefore, I don’t let myself leave the house without an arsenal of healthy snacks to get me through the day. Does anybody out there have any awesome sauce health snack suggestions of their own?
Definitely expect more product reviews to come…
*Now is about the time that I throw in a fun legal disclaimer (in case you haven’t already figured this out). I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or health consultant of any kind. I am simply a girl who loves to eat healthy and can offer up her healthy-life experience as information for you to use as you wish. Please consult your doctor before following any advice or pointers I provide here.