As it turns out, snack food companies care much less about how healthy their foods are — they care more about what makes snackers pick up their products in the store, and often, the illusion of being healthy is enough to convince a buyer to purchase. The truth of the matter is that many consumers have bought into deceptive marketing and wildly over estimate how healthfully they’re eating based almost exclusively on the packaging, and not on the caloric or nutritional value. Soft natural colors, for example, are meant to evoke a sense of oneness with nature, and thus make the consumer think, “natural.” Similarly, words like “organic,” and “naturally flavored” aren’t as well defined or as well regulated as many would expect.
If you’re trying to “stay healthy,” you’ve probably fallen prey to some brilliant albeit sneaky packaging tricks. Instead of one of these faux healthy snack foods, here’s a better alternative to actually keep your body pumping and free from toxins.
Unhealthy Snack: Dried Fruit
Better Option: Actual Fruit
Dried fruits came into vogue as corporate culture robbed more and more working Americans of the time they used to reserve for trips to the grocery store. Whereas raw fruits spoil, dried fruits last much longer. The packaging on the dried fruit containers plays up the “all natural fruit” element, which in and of itself is not false. Often alluding to apple orchards or a fecund pastoral landscape, the imagery on the snacks distracts from the high calorie count of dried fruit as well as the loads of sugars. To get more out of your snack, opt for fresh fruit over dried fruit. The amount of sugar is stretched over the entire apple, and not just a bite. You’ll also be getting extra fiber, water, and other physical benefits that dried fruits can’t offer.
Unhealthy Snack: Veggie Chips
Better Option: Raw Vegetables with Seasoning
Again, we’ve all fallen victim to the idea that by adding the word “vegetable” in front of the word “chips” we’re doing our bodies a favor. No amount of vegetables can negate the fact that these snacks are fried in oils that render your skin greasy and your arteries blocked, and of course, few if any of the nutritional benefits of vegetables make it through the frying process. It’d be better for everyone if you chose instead to eat baby carrots or celery sticks with olive oil, peanut butter, spices, or even all alone.
Unhealthy Snack: Energy and Breakfast Bars
Better Option: Trail Mix
Think about experience that energy bars try to sell: early morning hikes, the impetus to share your newfound energy with nature, and unstoppability. From the fit models in spandex to the advertised nutritional value, it’s no wonder that we think we’re doing well by our health to eat these either for breakfast or in the middle of the day to get through the last few hours of work. What these bars don’t advertise as transparently, though, is the amount of sugar, fat, and “other stuff” that goes into making these bars taste so good and achieve the mouth-feel with which we’re all familiar. If what you want is natural energy, opt instead for a trail mix of nuts, raisins, cheerios, and other items where you know exactly what’s in them.