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How Healthy Are Your “Healthy” Snacks?

There are lots of snacks that we know are unhealthy–candy, doughnuts, and potato chips are among them. However, a lot of people also tend to eat snacks that they think are healthy, but aren’t actually. There are a lot of foods out there with hidden calories and fat that are being touted as healthy.

People often have the snacks below and think they are making healthy food choices. However, if you read the nutrition labels, you might be surprised to find out the truth.

Protein / Fiber / Energy Bars

We often reach for a protein, energy, or fiber bars to feel fuller and get energy, especially before a big workout. However, with the amount of sugar, fat, and calories these bars often contain, they aren’t much better than having a candy bar. You’re much better off having an apple and some string cheese or peanut butter (as long as it’s natural and not reduced-fat–see below).

Smoothies / Fruit Juices

People often don’t factor in the amount of calories and sugar in the things we drink. Most smoothies start out with fruit and low-fat dairy, so we consider them healthy. However, when you get a smoothie from a coffee bar or smoothie shop, you’re often getting a lot of sugar added in as well. The same goes for bottled fruit juice. If you really want to have a smoothie or fruit juice, make it yourself in your juicer or blender so you can control what’s going in it.

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Peanut butter may contain fat, but the fats in peanut butter are good fats that are known to keep your heart healthy. When you take some of the fat out of peanut butter, you take out the health benefits. Additionally, reduced-fat peanut butter has about the same amount of calories as regular peanut butter, and the fat is replaced with sugar, sodium, and partially hydrogenated oils. You’re better off going with the full-fat version. Even better, get natural peanut butter with only one or two ingredients–just peanuts or peanuts and salt. Some grocery stores even have stations where you can grind your own peanut butter.

Anything “Fat-Free”

Many people think that “fat-free” foods mean that the food will also be calorie-free or have reduced calories, but that often is not the case. As with reduced-fat peanut butter, the fat in these foods is often replaced with tons of sugar, trans fats, or artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make unhealthy foods “healthy”–if it’s a type of food that you shouldn’t be eating in the first place, like cake or cookies, taking the fat out won’t make it any better for you.

Trail Mix

The nuts in trail mix can be healthy in the right portions, but store-bought trail mix often contains candy or yogurt-coated pieces and dried fruit, which can really increase the amount of sugar and calories without providing any nutritional value. In many cases, one cup of store-bought trail mix can be more than 600 calories. If you like the convenience of trail mix, stick to individual portions of nuts. In many cases, you can purchase pre-portioned bags of nuts or portion them out yourself from a larger container.

Dried Fruit

Fruit must be healthier than candy, right? Unfortunately, drying out fruit increases the amount of sugar and calories per serving, and you lose a lot of the nutritional value. All of that sugar can also cause your blood sugar to spike and crash. You’re much better off going with fresh fruit.


Pre-packaged snack foods may seem convenient, and some may even make you think they are healthy, but in most cases it’s best to stick with fresh, unprocessed food whenever you can. If you must go with pre-packaged food, always read the labels!