So with the help of a list from Registered Dietitian Molly Kimball I made a few adjustments to make it a little-more reader friendly and added a few foods of my own and put together this little list of “Like it, Love it, or Not So Much” brands. Hopefully it can help you next time you’re standing confused in the cracker aisle trying to figure out what to choose. And because we know we should practice “moderation in all things” there are even a few cookie and brownie choices on the list. Hey, you can eat em but why not try a healthier version. You may even like them! 😉
Below this list is an explanation of why each one is or isn’t a great choice. It’s long though, hence the quick and simple list if you’re not feeling like reading a novel today but if you are, the information is there! Most types of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish, snick-size cheeses, low-fat milk and whole grains qualify as top picks for great snacks but as far as prepared and packaged foods here are some tips for picking the best ones for your health.
Love it: Triscuits – 3g fiber per serving, whole wheat, oil and salt are the only ingredients in Original Triscuits. Flavored varieties of Triscuits and Triscuit Thin Crisps are other great options.
Like it: Wheat Thins – made with whole grain, but they do contain 3 types of added sugar. Whole wheat flour is the first ingredient in all varieties of Wheat Thins and they provide 2-3g of fiber per serving.
Not so much: Ritz Crackers “with Whole Wheat” – the first ingredient is enriched flour (white flour), followed by whole wheat flour, oil and sugar resulting in less than 1g fiber per serving.
Love it: Baked Tostitos Scoops – whole grain (whole corn is the first ingredient) with 2g fiber per serving. They’re also gluten free if that’s something you’re concerned about. Just 120 calories per 16-chip serving!
Like it: Sun Chips – with 3g fiber and 140 calories per 16-chip serving they are also whole grain but they are also fried.
Not so much: “Light” Ruffles and Lays. The “light” varieties of these chips are fried in olestra, a type of oil that our bodies don’t absorb so they chips only have about 80 calories per serving. However, Olestra can have a laxative effect, some people may be more sensitive than others to this.
Love it: Athenos Whole Wheat Pita Chips – They’re not 100% whole wheat but the first ingredient is whole wheat flour so they contain more wheat than white flour. An 11-chip serving has 3g fiber and 120 calories.
Like it: Stacy’s Multigrain Pita Chips – multigrain doesn’t necessarily mean whole grain. Enriched wheat flour (white flour) is the first ingredient, followed by oil but there are several whole grains further down the list providing a total of 2g fiber and 140 calories per 9-chip serving.
Not so much: Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips – simply put, they aren’t much better than just eating white bread. Enriched what flour (again, white flour) is the first ingredient. They do contain whole wheat flour as well but there is more oil and salt than whole wheat. Only 1g fiber and 130 calories per 10-chip serving.
Gummy Fruit “Snacks”
Love it: Stretch Island Fruit Co. Fruit Leather – the blend of fruit purees, juices and concentrates provide only 45 calories per strip. These fruit leathers are primarily sugar BUT it’s all naturally occurring fruit sugar, no added sugar!
Like it: Fruit Roll-Ups – not a big fan of these but at least each 50-calorie Roll-Up has more real fruit than added sugar.
Not so much: Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks – the label advertises that they’re “made with real fruit” but the first 2 ingredients are corn syrup and sugar resulting in 13g of (mostly added) sugar in every 70 calorie pouch.
Granola/Cereal/Trail Mix BARS
Love it: Kashi Honey Almond Flax Granola Bar – with more Kashi rolled whole grain blend and roasted almonds than any other ingredient, these 140-calorie bars have 7g of protein (the equivalent of one egg), 4 g fiber and 5g sugar.
(Another) Love it: Nature Valley PROTEIN Bar – peanuts and soy protein isolate top the ingredient list, followed by whey protein concentrate and peanut butter further down. The result: a 190-calorie bar that has more protein (10g) than sugar (6g) with 12g of heart-smart, satisfying fats.
Like it: Nature Valley Crunch Oats ‘n Honey – the package claims “16 grams of whole grain” on the front and while the first ingredient is whole grain oats they still have more sugar than fat, fiber or protein thanks to the honey and brown sugar syrup. For each 2-bar packaged serving there are 190 calories, 12g sugar 2g fiber and 4g protein.
Not so much: Slim-Fast Chocolatey Vanilla Blitz Snack Bar – Sugar and fractionated palm kernel oil tops the list on these crispy bars, followed by sugar, corn syrup, cane juice, syrup, molasses and more sugar. To even though these “diet’ barn have only 100 calories they also have six times more sugar than fiber or protein, so there’s not much in these bars to keep you feeling full for long.
Love it: Nature Valley PROTEIN Bar – these bars contains 5g fiber with only 6 grams sugar. One packaged serving has 190 calories with 10g protein, almost twice as much protein as sugar. With 12g fat only 3.5 are saturated, these bars contain lots of heart healthy fats. Peanuts are the first ingredient followed by soy protein.
Like it: Kellogg’s Fiber Plus PROTEIN Bar – with 170 calories per bar these bars contain 9g sugar but they also contain 10g of protein so overall they provide more protein than sugar. They also pack in 7g fiber. Soy protein is the first ingreidnet followed by chicory root, sugar and then peanuts and other nuts.
Not so much: Fiber One Protein Bars – these 140 calories bars have more sugar than protein with only 6g protein they also contain 7g sugar. Three-fourths of the fat in these bars (4 of the 6 grams) comes from saturated fat.
Love it: Plain Greek Yogurt – 0-2% fat (e.g. Chobani, Fage, Oikos). Protein-rich with zero added sugar they’re also a good source of probiotics , calcium and potassium.
(Another) Love it: Sophie NO Sugar Added Flavored Greek Yogurt. Sweetened with xylitol (a reduced-calorie plant-based sweetener) and stevia, Sophie flavored Greek yogurts still pack in 16g of protein per carton with just 5g sugar.
Like it: Flavored Greek Yogurt (e.g. Chobani, Yoplait, Fage, Dannon) – most types of flavored Greek yogurt are good sources of protein (usually 10-14g per serving) but they’re can sometimes be high in sugar (10-17g), so check the label. Dannon Light & Fit only has 7g sugar. While some of the sugar is natural milk and fruit sugars, most brands still contain a significant amount of added sugar.
Not so much: Yoplait Original & Yoplait Simplait – with 170 to 200 calories and 24-26g sugar in one 6-ounce serving these yogurts can pack as much sugar as a full-size Hershey Bar!
(Another) Not so much: Activia – it has nearly 5 times as much sugar as protein (4g of protein and often up to 19g of sugar). White it does contain beneficial probiotics , all kinds of yogurt contain various strains of good-for-you probiotics so there are many much better choices out there (like some of those listed above!)
Love it: Kashi TLC Cookies – Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Soft-Baked Cookies – rolled whole grain blend (oats, rye, barley, etc.) tops the ingredient list followed by dark chocolate chips and then canola oil. With only 130 calories, 4g fiber and 8g sugar these cookies have some of the best ratios of fiber-rich whole grains to sugar that you’ll find in store-bought cookies. Keep in mind you only get one (big) cookie per serving.
Like it: Back-to-Nature Triple Ginger Cookies – each 5-cookie serving has 140 calories and 2g fiber with whole grain flour as the first ingredient. However they also have 10g sugar from cane juice, sugar and molasses.
Not so much: Snackwells Crème Sandwich Cookies – each snack-size pack is basically white flour and sugar with 210 calories and 18g sugar per pack, these cookies provide almost ¾ of your days’ worth of added sugar.
(Another) Not so much: Fig Newtons – the first ingredient is white flour and while they do contain figs they also contain sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup resulting in 200 calories and 23g of sugar – twice as much sugar as a snack pack of Chips Ahoy cookies!
Love it: Kashi’s Chocolate Soft-Baked Squares – whole wheat flour is the first ingredient, followed by sweet potatoes so these brownies actually provide some nutritional benefit – like 4g real, whole-food fiber. Careful though, because each singly wrapped brownie has 160 calories and 9g sugar. Be sure to watch your portion sizes.
Like it: Fiber One Brownies – these brownies are not a source of significant nutritional value. The first ingredient is bleached wheat flour (white flour) followed by sugar and then chocolate chips. Most of the fiber comes from isolated fibers like chicory root extract and sugarcane fiber, which don’t have the same health benefits of real, whole-food fiber. Still, these portion-controlled 90 calories brownies can serve the purpose of satisfying a chocolate craving for a mere 90 (albeit white and sugary) calories.
Not so much: Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies – each cellophane-wrapped brownies has 280 calories (that’s more than a McDonald’s hamburger), with 24g sugar (the equivalent of 6 spoons of added sugar).
Reference: Kimball, Molly. “Pack a nutritious lunch with these mix-and-match ideas.” Times-Picayune [New Orleans ] 14 Sep 2012, n. pag. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. <http://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2012/09/pack_a_nutritious_lunch_with_t.html>.