I wanted to share a recent article I wrote for Best Kept Self - shedding some light on snacks that could be sabotaging your health goals!
Take a peak at the full article below! :) ))
These days, it seems like everyone has an opinion about which foods are “healthy,” or “not healthy” – and there’s constantly a new diet or fitness trend floating around. But what I’ve found most effective is to understand the specific ingredients found in the food you’re consuming and to focus on how those foods make you feel (watching your energy levels, cravings, bloating, etc.)
With that being said, I’m focusing this particular article on snacks that can be detrimental to your health goals when purchased and consumed without careful attention! What are they? Find out below.
Three “healthy” snacks that can actually be detrimental to your health goals:
We know that nuts are healthy—they are packed with nutrients and are energy-dense sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The issue, however, is that it’s tricky to stick to the suggested serving size (is anyone really satisfied from a handful of 8 nuts?) and it’s easy to hit the 400-500 calorie range without breaking a sweat! What’s more: there are millions of nut varietals (from sweet to roasted to salty) —packing in extra sugar, calories and preservatives that make this snack considerably less “healthy” than you’d like to believe.
Nuts such as almonds are also known to cause GI discomfort because they are poorly absorbed in the gut and are packed with fiber that can be difficult to break down. Recently, after realizing I was getting a stomach ache every day after eating peanuts or almonds—I completely cut them from my diet— and the mid-day bloating and cramping I was experiencing has completely subsided.
Now, if nuts don’t give you GI discomfort – that’s fantastic! But you should still be wary of serving sizes and stick to buying nuts “au natural” (with no added ingredients). And if you’re looking for an alternative to nuts—consider adding more coconut oil, olive oil or grass-fed butter to your meals – these are healthy fats that will fill you up at meal time and reduce your need to graze and snack throughout the day.
2. Protein Bars
Protein bars are generally marketed to taste and look like candy bars—whilst promoting ingredients that are “high protein,” “low sugar,” “gluten-free,” “vegan” and/or “all natural” (which sounds so healthy!).
The problem is, that despite the marketed benefits—many of the ingredients making up protein bars are synthetic—and it’s important to understand what they are and what they’re doing to your body (HOW is it zero sugar? HOW does it taste delicious, but have so few calories?)
A couple years ago, I was ADDICTED to Quest bars. Since I regularly strength train, I thought they were the perfect way to supplement my diet since they’re high protein, very low sugar, low calorie and delicious! I would eat one every day immediately after breakfast (because I couldn’t control myself to wait until a more reasonable “snack time”), and every day I would get distention / stomach pain around 5pm and would need to go home, lay down, and wait for it to pass.
Of course, I didn’t want to believe that my beloved bars could be causing my GI discomfort (after all, I ate them in the morning—and I didn’t have stomach aches until after work!), but now, since working with a nutritionist—I’ve learned that ingredients like “Erythritol” (sugar alcohols) “whey” and “chicory root fiber” can lead to flatulence, bloating and malabsorption of nutrients. I also learned that it takes several hours for your body to break down food, so although you may think your bloating or stomach pain is caused by the food you JUST ate—it can be triggered by food you’ve consumed much earlier in the day.
Yes, protein bars are a great snack on the go—and they can be a healthy alternative to other, more unhealthy snack foods– but it’s really best to avoid pre-packaged snacks in favor of higher protein meals, and snacks from complete foods. (However, if you do like to have them on hand, look for ones with ingredients that you recognize and understand).
Here’s the thing about yogurt (which also applies to the snacks mentioned above)—they are not all created equal. And while I’m not at all ruling out the entire category of yogurt—I am suggesting that you take a good look at the ingredients in the brands you’re eating and buying—specifically at the sugar content per serving.
With a product like yogurt, we often focus on the nutritional benefits, and pick our brand based on calorie content—while overlooking the fact that many brands pack in 12-30 grams of sugar (that’s more than many candy bars!). The lactose in dairy can also cause major bloating and GI discomfort– so it’s important to get honest with yourself if you’re experiencing symptoms, but are continuing to eat dairy.
The best move: opt for plain yogurt without added sugar (greek yogurt is best!) and spiff it up with natural sweeteners like stevia, fresh fruit, coconut flakes or spices! You could also replace yogurt with cottage cheese (high protein, low to zero sugar) or a non-dairy, lactose-free yogurt to reduce digestive symptoms.
At the end of the day, we can’t categorize an entire snack category as bad or “unhealthy”— as there are thousands of products on the market with considerably different ingredients and unique benefits! What’s important is to examine all labels when grocery shopping, get in the habit of using measuring cups and spoons when preparing your meals and aim to reduce your intake of packaged snacks that are packed with added sugars and synthetic ingredients!
Do you eat any of these foods regularly? Do you have yogurt or protein bar recipes (or brands) that you'd recommend as a healthy alternative? Would love to hear about them!
xoxo - Ryan