By Miranda Moore
It is no secret today that “snacking” is the enemy of all of us who are trying to watch our weight. There are many misconceptions about snacking and it is often to blame for extra weight gain. Studies have shown that snacking can actually be beneficial to weight loss, as long as you evaluate your choices carefully. According to the SnackSense website, studies suggest snacking controls overeating at mealtimes because eating smaller portions throughout the day decreased the need for a large meal for dinner.
Obesity has been a hot button issue in the United States for awhile. With this rising concern, snack companies are creating health-conscious snacks. But are these snacks really healthy or is there something more sinister lurking behind the label?
Veggie Chips: Packing a Calorie Punch
Veggie chips are a mainstay in the potato chip aisle. Veggie chips are healthier than regular chips, but are not actually low in fat or calories. Veggie chips come in several flavors—lentil, black bean, vegetable medley, sweet potato, carrot and snap pea.
According to the Livestrong website, an ounce of vegetable chips contains about 130 calories, while regular potato chips contain around 152 calories. Veggie chips are considerably better than potato chips when it comes to sodium—about 82 milligrams as compared to 125 milligrams.
Even though veggie chips are a considerably better snack when compared to potato chips, don’t be fooled by its promise of low-fat. Always check the label to see what you are really buying. Also keep in mind that veggie chips do not provide the healthy benefits that actual vegetables do. An even better alternative to veggie chips would be to cut up your own vegetables and spice them up with salsa or low-fat dressing.
Fruit Chips Contain more Calories than Potato Chips
I have to come clean on this one. I am an apple chip junkie. With flavors like caramel, cinnamon, granny smith and golden yellow, what’s not to like? The plus side is that including apple chips in your diet will give you access to a few more nutrients. But to my dismay, apple chips do not contain less calories or fat than what would be perceived.
A single serving of apple chips contains 306 calories for each 2 ounces of chips consumed. A typical serving of potato chips has 280 calories. You can imagine my grief at finding this out. Apple chips also contain 18.2 grams of sugar per serving. The Livestrong website reports that although apples are naturally high in sugar, this type of sugar does not contribute to weight gain. However, the acid and sugar content in apples have been linked as damaging to teeth, according to a post on The Wealthy Dentist website. The post stated that David Bartlett, head of Prosthodontics at King’s College London Dental Institute, conducted a study showing that “eating apples can be up to four times more damaging to teeth than carbonated drinks.”
If you chose to take a detour from the apple chip route because of this new information, do not despair. You can make apple chips at home and cut down on the fat and calories—the trick is to bake them instead of frying. Dehydrating apples can also turn them into crunchy chips, but they must be sliced very thin. There are also other types of fruit chips, but the same amount of sugar and calories are packed in. Your best option is to enjoy these snacks in moderation or make your own homemade version.
Granola Bars: More Sugar than Fiber
When most people think of granola bars they automatically think, “healthy snack.” I’m also guilty of consuming this sugar packing bar. Yes, that’s right. Most granola bars are packed with sugar. You might be thinking that I am only speaking of the ones that contain ingredients like chocolate chips, but no, the ones containing strawberry yogurt are just as bad.
A Nature Valley strawberry yogurt bar has nine different types of sugar, a total of 13 grams of sugar and also a number of preservatives, according to the Livestrong website. For all its boosting about whole grain, it only has 1 gram of fiber. With all of this in a yogurt bar, I can only imagine how much sugar a chocolate chip bar packs.
However, there is a silver lining to this particular snack because I stumbled on a bar that contains natural ingredients. The Larabar is a blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices, according to the product’s website. Each flavor of the bar contains no more than nine ingredients and there is no added sugar, sweeteners, preservatives or coloring. Each bar contains one-fourth a cup of fruit and the Larabar even has a chocolate chip flavor. The chocolate chip bar only has four ingredients: chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla. And yes, it contains sugar and chocolate so it’s not perfect. The interesting thing about this bar is that the chocolate chips are dairy-free.
The downside to this snack, however, is that it contains more calories than a Nature Valley Yogurt bar. A yogurt bar contains 140 calories while a peanut butter cookie Larabar contains 220 calories. Because of this, Larabars are ideal to eat as an energy bar—eat before hiking, swimming, running or riding a bike. If the Larabar is not available at a store near you, they can be purchased at the official Larabar store website, larabarstore.com. However, if you search the Internet you can find recipes much like that of the Larabar to make on your own.
Do-It-Yourself: Know what Goes Into Your Snack by Making It Yourself
If you don’t want to wade through all of the sugar and preservatives at the stores, you can make healthy snacks at home—there are plenty of places to find recipes.
As we all know, anything can be found on the Internet these days. Websites, like Allrecipes.com, offer many healthy snack options. Their recipes range from the classic, “ants on a long” to delicious fruit smoothies.
Rachel Ray’s website has a “103 Healthy Snacks” page. The snacks are separated into five categories—salty, crunchy, sweet, creamy and “superfood.” A superfood is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. One of the more common superfoods is avocados and this list is excellent if you want variety. Wholeliving.com offers 31 healthy snack recipes. They also offer weight lost and dieting tips. Some of their popular recipes include a papaya-berry yogurt parfait and vegetable salsa.
Even though snack companies can slap a low-fat label on a product, it is not always wise to trust the label alone. If you really want to know what kind of nutritional value a food has, check the nutritional label. Ultimately, it is the consumer’s choice that determines if the product sells. By checking the labels, you will not only make healthier decisions for yourself but you will also help in lowering the productivity of an unhealthy snack.