We're back with our series, Savvy Swaps, where we analyze popular store-bought products and offer up healthier alternatives, without the negative additives. Today, we’re tossing unhealthy, toxic snacks for safer, real-food-based, healthier snacks: potato chips, cookies, granola bars, muffins and gum.
As always, this series is meant to shed light on what's in our food and encourage label-reading–it's not about food shaming or throwing out everything in your pantry. Repeat after me: be aware, be informed, be balanced. And do what's right for you.
Take a look at some of the leading brands’ ingredients labels to get an idea of how some of these unhealthy snacks compare to their healthier counterparts:
So here's the skinny on why some of these popular store-bought snacks are so bad for you (and why you should swap them for their healthier alternatives!):
- BAD: Pringles Original: Highly processed from non-organic, possibly GMO ingredients; contains unhealthly artificial trans fats (corn, cotton seed, soybean and sunflower oil), high in saturated fat, contains added sugar (dextrose).
- GOOD: Kettle Brand Potato Chips in Avocado Oil (Himalayan Salt): Made with just three ingredients (salt, potatoes and avocado oil), these chips contain no unhealthy oil or additives, so you know exactly what you're getting. I've tried a few brands and I have to admit, Kettle's chips are incredibly crunchy and satisfying–I'd never know they weren't normal potato chips based on the taste. I do recommend sticking to the salt flavor only, though. When you go for flavored chips, no matter what brand, those flavored powders just contain tons of additives, unspecified “flavors” and harmful oils.
- BAD: Famous Amos Cookies: Highly processed from non-organic ingredients, some of which are likely derived from antiobiotic-treated animals and GMOs. Contains harmful additives, unhealthy artificial trans fats (soybean oil), natural and artificial flavor and is high in saturated fat. Products is over 30% sugar by weight.
- GOOD: Bakeology Cookies: Okay, first thing's first. A cookie is a cookie is a cookie, no matter if it's organic or gluten-free or made from fairy dust. So I'm not really recommending that you start gorging on cookies just because there are healthier alternatives out there. BUT, if you are going to have a cookie, you might as well make sure it's made from quality ingredients. I'm in love with the crunchy goodness of Bakeology's cookies, which aren't cloyingly sweet either–Matt loves chocolate chip, while I'm partial to Snickerdoodle and Vanilla Chai Shortbread. Whatever flavor you choose, know that they're all made in small batches using non-GMO, gluten-free and plant-based ingredients with organic coconut oil as the base. Unfortunately, they do still use sunflower oil (as a natural preservative, according to the founder), so it's not a perfect snack. But again, it IS a cookie.
- BAD: Nature Valley Yogurt Chewy Granola Bars Strawberry: Don't be fooled by the green-sounding brand name. Nature Valley's yogurt granola bars are highly processed from non-organic ingredients, some of which are likely derived from antiobiotic- and hormone-treated animals and GMOs; contains unhealthy artificial trans fats (Canola Oil), questionable “flavor” additives and extremely high levels of sugar (40% sugar by weight).
- GOOD: Bravo Bars Cran Nut & Seeds: I try not to eat too many bars, healthy or not, when I'm just at home and could easily reach for a healthier snack. But when I'm traveling or out running errands, etc. and I need a pick-me-up, I love having a granola or protein bar with me that I can trust. I consider them my in-case-of-emergency snacks. These Bravo bars are made with all-natural, non-GMO, vegan ingredients; free of processed sugar, gluten, wheat, soy and trans fats. AND, they're full of vegan, green protein, provide healthy fiber from chia and flax seeds, calcium, iron, and healthy fats from almonds and seeds. Even though they're delicious (and almost taste more like a chewy oatmeal raisin cookie than a traditional granola bar), they're also low in sodium, low calorie and naturally sweetened with coconut nectar.
- BAD: Jiffy Banana Muffin Mix: There's a price you pay for convenience and in the case of Jiffy mixes, that price is your health. This banana muffin mix is processed from non-organic, likely GMO ingredients; contains harmful additives (flavor), unhealthy artificial trans fat (soybean oil) and high levels of sugar (28% sugar by weight) and sodium (21% of the Institute of Medicine's daily recommendation). So much for that healthy morning muffin.
- GOOD: Simply Mills Banana Muffin Mix: I am absolutely obsessed with this brand's line of grain-free, Paleo-friendly mixes, from pizza dough to bread and these muffins. They put Jiffy, and pretty much every other mix, to shame. Minimally processed (the banana muffin mix only contains 6 certified non-GMO ingredients), Simply Mills muffins are gluten-free, dairy-free, high in protein and fiber and made without unhealthy oils. And if you can believe it, they're extremely delicious. Super moist and satisfying, I like added raw cacao nibs and crushed walnuts to mine for an extra flavor/texture boost.
- BAD: Mentos Chewing Gum Spearmint: Who would've thought gum could be so bad for you? Highly processed from non-organic, possibly GMO ingredients, Mentos gum contains harmful additives (including Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT, a preservative known to be a human toxin, allergen, hormone disruptor and potential carcinogen), synthetic food dyes, and artificial flavors. If that weren't enough, the gum also contains unhealthy artificial trans fats (Sucrose Esters Of Fatty Acids) and 7 different artificial sweeteners (Xylitol, Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Aspartame, Acesulphame Potassium, and Sucralose), plus added sugars (glycerine/glycerol).
- GOOD: Simply Gum, Mint: Though it's a bit chewier than most conventional gums, I'm a convert to the country's first 100% natural chewing gum. Made from all-natural, organic ingredients, Simply Gum is vegan and free of gluten, plastic (yes, many conventional gums actually contain plastic–it's those little microbeads!), aspartame and other dangerous artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.
Why are these snacks bad for you?
In a previous Savvy Swaps series, we looked at why some of these ingredients are even bad for you in the first place–take a look at this story to learn more about the dangers of GMOs, unhealthy oils, antibiotics and hormones and artificial colors.
EWG's Dirty Dozen list of toxic food additives is another great resource.
While it’s shocking what a difference you can find between brands, remember that the safe snack swaps aren’t necessarily healthy or good for you. Rather they’re simply healthier options. Better choices. And that’s a step in the right direction!
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.