Don’t Let These “Healthy” Snacks Fool You

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You’ve been had. You’ve been told to eat this not that, but it turns out those “healthy” snacks you’ve been devouring guilt-free could be costing you your waistline and your health.

Being huge snackers ourselves, DIEMlife co-founder Timothy and I have learned through trial and (mostly) error that a lot of “healthy snacks” aren’t all that great for you.

Learn from our caloric mistakes and check out a list of 10 snacks that may be deceiving you and your loved ones. Unless you’re burning thousands of calories as a high intensity athlete who may need the carbs for optimal performance, you may want to think twice about how you’re eating these foods or whether or not you should even add them to your shopping cart.

 

is oatmeal really healthy?

1. Instant Oatmeal

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Why?: Did you know that one packet of Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar instant oatmeal has the same nutrient profile as a Klondike bar? That means there’s very little protein, and a whole lot of carbs and refined sugar, which causes high blood glucose and insulin levels. And we haven’t even added all our favorite toppings yet. Just adding bananas, strawberries and honey to the existing  32 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein means you’re now at 72 grams of carbs and 32 grams of sugar! That’s EIGHT teaspoons of sugar!

Instead: We use our good friend Barbara’s recipe and mix together ½ cup of steel cut oats, ¾ cup of nut milk and one chopped date. We refrigerate the mix overnight and it’s ready for us to enjoy in the morning! You can also try  another recipe we love.

 

is dark chocolate really healthy?

2. Dark Chocolate

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Why?: If you’re going to have any chocolate, dark chocolate is the healthiest, right? But how much are you really consuming? Researchers say that we consume 41 percent more calories when snacking on unwrapped snacks, because it doesn’t give our body much time to recognize “I’m full.” When it comes to chocolate, it’s all about enjoying the moment and not overeating.

Instead: Stick with smaller portions of wrapped dark chocolate. We like Fruition Chocolate’s One Hundred Percent Bar. One bite is all you need. Bonus tip: The percentage of cacao matters as it’s an indicator of antioxidant flavonols which can improve heart health. The sweet spot? 70 percent or more. Make sure to avoid any that specifies “alkalinization” which strips out those flavonols.

 

is popcorn really healthy?

3. Popcorn

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Why?: Popcorn that is GMO-free and organic is actually considered a fiber-rich and whole-grain snack that can prevent crashes in blood sugar levels. But microwave varieties have diacetyl-based flavorings that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. And don’t even get us started on movie popcorn. A large popcorn, without butter, contains 1,030 calories and 41 grams of fat. And that’s even before you add the partially-hydrogenated soybean oil that’s been colored, flavored and sold to you as butter! With butter? That’s an additional 130 calories per tablespoon and a nice helping of trans fat. It’s enough reason to consider sneaking in your own popcorn mix to the movies…not that we’ve ever done that…

Instead: Either make your own popcorn by stovetop or make your own corn-free alternative with amaranth. You can put it on a stove with oil and then season with a pinch of himalayan sea salt just like corn-based popcorn! Bonus tip: Add a little of the dark chocolate above and a few almonds for a well balanced snack!

 

is cheese really healthy?

4. Cheese

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Why?: Cheese can be a great source of calcium, protein, vitamins A and B12, along with zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. And some studies show that cheese can actually keep you from getting cavities. Despite these positives, the WAY we usually eat cheese cancels out any health benefits. Remember, cheese is still a high-fat and high-calorie food with about 100 calories per ounce and 6-9 grams of fat, which is mostly saturated and loaded with sodium. Now think about how we slather it on pizza, pour it over nachos or stack them on top of crackers. That’s a whole lot of unneeded fat and calories. Avoid processed cheeses altogether. They contain emulsifiers, extenders, hydrogenated oils, and other unhealthy additives.

Instead: Have cheese sparingly or recreate that rich flavor by using a nutrient-rich produce like avocado. Make your own avocado spread and replace it for the cheese on your sandwiches. Nut-based cheeses like cashew cheese are great in salads too (but not so great on pizza).  Bonus tip: As an easy rule of thumb, go for full-fat, organic cheeses made from raw milk like goat cheese, pecorino romano, cottage cheese, feta and blue cheese.

 

is granola healthy?

5. Granola

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Why?: I tried to lose my “Freshman 15” in college by adding granola into my diet because I thought it was healthy. It wasn’t and it didn’t help me one bit. A lot of store bought granola, cereals and even some homemade recipes can have up to 30 grams of sugar per cup which is actually more than a cup of ice cream. And let’s be honest, no one is having just one cup of granola. It’s no wonder I had such a hard time losing weight.

Instead: To satiate the need for a crunch, look for a raw seeds and nuts mix. We get our granola fix from Kettlebell Kitchen now. They make theirs with only almonds, pumpkin seeds and currants. Want to make something like this yourself? We love this simple grain-free recipe.

 

is yogurt really healthy?

6. Flavored Yogurt

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Why?: Not all yogurts are made equally with muscle-building protein and belly-beneficial probiotics. Beware of flavored yogurt which is usually packed with over 25 grams of sugar. That’s the same as eating a Dunkin’ Donuts Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavored Creme Donut or a serving of Baskin-Robbins Cookies N’ Cream Ice Cream.

Instead: Read the labels! Go for plain, 2 percent or full-fat yogurt and go easy on the toppings. Try a handful of fresh berries or walnuts, which have high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Bonus tip: Add a sprinkle of unsweetened cacao for a chocolatey taste.

 

is honey really healthy?

7. Honey

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Why?:  Honey is thought of as a natural food whereas white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are processed. Beware, it turns out the health effects of honey and processed sweeteners are chemically very similar. Researchers have found no significant difference in the impact on blood sugar, insulin, body weight, cholesterol and blood pressure when using honey instead of refined sugar. I guess a sweetener is a sweetener, no matter the source.

Instead: Try coconut nectar. It ranks low on the glycemic index, is mineral-rich, and a good plant source of various B vitamins.

 

are smoothies really healthy?

8. Smoothies

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Why?: Who doesn’t love smoothies?! Everyone knows how deliciously satisfying a cold smoothie is. But if you’re not doing high intensity, hard workouts, a typical smoothie from your favorite smoothie place is just too much sugar and calories for the average person to consume as a snack. The brand Naked Juice has actually been sued by a consumer advocacy group saying that the company is misleading customers on the sugar content in their products, even with their labels that say “no added sugar.” For reference, their green smoothie “Green Machine” has 53 grams of sugar from just the fruits alone which is way more than a can of Coca-Cola.

Instead: For a delicious, refreshing, and safe-for-your-gut smoothie, keep it simple. Here’s Tim’s favorite concoction. 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 serving protein powder, 1 tbsp almond butter, 2 tbsp maca powder, 1 tbsp raw cacao powder, ½ cup blueberries, handful fresh mint, ½ cup water, 1 cup ice. If you’re hankering for a creamier texture, you can add 1 tbsp tahini or ¼ cup coconut creamer.

 

are rice cakes really healthy?

9. Rice Cakes

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Why?:  We’re going old school! Rice cakes rank high on the glycemic index. On a scale of one  to 100, these guys come in at 82! This means even if rice cakes provide you a rush of energy, they’ll leave you hungry within an hour which means all signs point to overeating and weight gain.

Instead: If you the love the crunchiness of rice cakes, try seaweed snacks instead. If you want something more substantial to keep you feeling fuller for longer, grab a handful of raw cashews and almonds for more nutritionally balanced snack.

 

are dried fruits healthy?

10. Dried fruits

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Why?: Because water has been removed from dried fruit, the sugar and calories are higher than they are compared to fresh fruit. In most  cases with dried fruit brands, there’s even more sugar because of the added coating, which sometimes triples the sugar content of fresh fruit. That’s about 70 grams of sugar per serving. The fact that a lot of the sugar content is fructose means eating a lot of dried fruit can have negative health effects like increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Instead: Go for the obvious and have a piece of fresh fruit instead. If you’re curious about the sugar content of your fruit of choice, check out the fruit pyramid.

3 Comments

  1. momnrn50 August 6, 2017
  2. flowjunkie August 6, 2017
    • Yoo-Sun Park Yoo-Sun Park August 10, 2017

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