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5 ‘Healthy’ Snacks That Really Aren’t and How You Can Trade Up

by Marissa on November 16, 2012

Snacks. What would we do without them?

They’re that little bridge between meals. The extra pep in your afternoon step. The saving grace on a flight without food.

But not all snacks are created equal and certainly not every snack touted as “healthy” deserves such a description. Here are five of the biggest offenders and easy alternatives to try.

Eating these snacks won’t necessarily make you gain weight or put your health on the line, but if you want the most bang for your nutritional buck, consider trading up. 

Greek Yogurt

Yes it’s full of protein but if you consider that the protein in dairy comes from mucus-forming casein – the same ingredient used in glue – you may think twice about this snack. Many people like yogurt because 1) it contains calcium and 2) it’s fun to mix in fruit, nuts, granola and other fun toppings to create a substantial mini-meal.

Trade up: Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are full of protein, calcium and antioxidants. When combined with non-dairy milk, they form a pudding-like consistency perfect for mixing and mashing with your favorite nutritious add-ins.

Get a recipe for Chia Pudding.

Like parfaits? Try this Chia Seed Parfait!

Rice Cakes 

I’ll be the first to praise whole grains but rice cakes, airy discs of puffed rice, offer little nutrition. That’s not to say they’re completely unhealthy but if you’re looking for a more filling snack, try a spread of nut butter on top.

Trade up: Sprouted Grain Bread or Sweet Potato 

Sprouted grain breads are less adulterated and more digestible than whole grain breads. Try it Avocado Toast-style with a spread of avocado, a drizzle of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt. Get the how-to here. If you’re looking for a gluten free option, a steamed sweet potato with coconut oil and chopped nuts is a slow-burning carb that’s completely satisfying.

100 Calorie Snack Packs 

Portion-controlled processed food is still processed food and not nearly as satisfying as real food. Chances are these conveniently-packaged treats leave you wanting to tear into more.

Trade up: Raw Veggies

If you’re challenged by portion control, snack on crunchy raw veggies, sliced apples or even steamed edamame. They’re filling and contain loads of fiber and nutrients. Plus, it’s really hard to OD on fresh fruit and veggies. Pre-cut, bag, grab and go!


Hummus is typically made with chickpeas. It’s also typically sold in containers. Two tips when it comes to hummus: First, check the ingredients on store-bought. It often contains additives and funny ingredients, maybe even sweeteners. Consider making your own. Next, chickpeas are known to be hard to digest so hummus may cause bloating. It’s not a flat-belly food.

Trade up: Edamame Hummus or Bean Dip 

If you like the consistency of hummus consider making a similar dip with edamame instead. Or try this recipe for a Tuscan White Bean Dip. Serve with raw, crunchy veggies.

Protein Bars 

There are very few packaged bars (read: only 1 or 2) that I recommend. That said, protein bars are generally a bad idea. Many contain soy protein isolate and other unnecessary ingredients.

Trade up: Raw Trail Mix

Make your own trail mix with raw (not roasted or salted) nuts, seeds and a little dried fruit. This mixture will deliver lots of quality energy. Sound boring? Add dark chocolate chips. Instant yum and a dose of antioxidants.

Have a favorite snack and wondering how to trade up or if you need to at all? Leave a comment below and I’ll let you know!

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