Smart Choices for Healthier Snacks

Smart Choices for Healthier Snacks

The Snack Trap: What you Don't Know About Snacks Could Hurt You

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Staff Nutritionist, myOptumHealth

Navigating the food aisles for healthy snacks is more challenging than it seems. Misleading labels can make a less-than-mediocre choice look like a nutritional gem.

Check out the following snack traps to see how you can make healthier choices.

Yogurt/yogurt drinks
The facts:

  • Yogurt can be a big source of excess sugar. Even small servings (4 ounces) can contain 4 or more added teaspoons of sugar per serving. The larger 6- or 8-ounce servings can have as much as 6 to 8 teaspoons of added sugar.
  • In addition, many yogurts have added food coloring or dyes.
  • Smaller portions can mean less calcium, which means only about 100 mg, the amount in 1/3 cup of milk.

Healthier choices

  • Look for brands without high-fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, or artificial sweeteners.
  • Mix 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with 1/2 cup of flavored yogurt, to cut sugar.
  • Take the whole top portion off a yogurt with fruit on the bottom. It's still sweet and delicious, without the goopy sugar calories at the bottom.
  • Try low-fat Greek yogurt, which has a creamier texture than regular. Add fresh fruit and a teaspoon of honey or sugar for sweetness.
  • Try homemade smoothies: blend a natural yogurt with frozen fruit and a little skim milk for a nutritious treat.

Fruit juice
The facts:

  • Even if it's 100-percent juice, the sugar content is the same as soda.
  • Fruit juice contains no fiber.
  • Many brands contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Healthier choices

  • Choose water or low-fat milk to quench thirst.
  • Choose 100-percent juice, and stick to 1 cup a day.
  • Dilute 100-percent juice with extra water to cut back on overall sugar content.
  • Eat fresh fruit!

Granola bars
The facts:

  • Most granola bars are glorified candy bars.
  • Although fat is typically low, they are usually high in sugar and low in fiber.
  • Some bars contain saturated fat.

Healthier choices

  • Look for brands with no more than 10 grams of sugar per bar.
  • Look for a minimum of 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Try nuts, such as crunchy almonds, peanuts in or out of the shell, or pistachios, as an alternative.

Cheese and crackers
The facts:

  • Many cheeses are loaded with saturated fat and are high in total fat and calories.
  • Many crackers are also either high in fat, have added sugar, or are made with refined flour, which means no fiber.

Healthier choices:

  • Look for reduced-fat cheddar and other types.
  • Try low-fat string cheese.
  • Buy whole-grain crackers with 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Try plain or flavored rice cakes with a smear of peanut butter or hummus as an alternative.
  • If you love regular-fat cheese, stick to one ounce, which has about 110 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Fruit roll-ups
The facts:

  • Many contain corn syrup, sugar, and partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Many also have artificial flavors and food dyes.
  • Many contain no real fruit or fiber.

Healthier choices:

  • Look for those containing all fruit
  • Buy fresh fruit, which is a good alternative
  • Get dried fruit, such as apricots, plums, and apples.
  • Use natural applesauce.

Snack crackers, pretzels, graham crackers
The facts:

  • Although better than fatty potato or fried corn chips, they are made with white, nutrient-depleted flour.
  • They have very little fiber.
  • They may have some hydrogenated fats.

Healthier choices:

  • Try plain or flavored rice cakes.
  • Buy baked corn tortilla chips, or tortilla chips made without hydrogenated fat.
  • Serve 100-percent whole-grain crackers.


  • USDA National Nutrient Database Accessed: 04/15/2011

Copyright © 2011 myOptumHealth.