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Good snack bad snack: treat ... or trick?

Looking for a snack? Healthwise, nothing beats a crisp bite of mouthful of orange, a crunchy baby carrot, or any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Nothing.

But sometimes you're in the mood for a new treat. Here are some healthy recent arrivals (p. 14) ... and some not-so-healthy ones (p. 15).

The information for this article was compiled by Paige Einstein and Lindsay Moyer.


Bean Good

"One serving has as much protein as 23 almonds, as much fiber as 2 cups of broccoli and they're 100% free of nuts, soy & gluten," boasts The Good Bean All Natural Chickpea Snacks bag.

What a concept! The seven flavors include Cracked Pepper, Smoky Chili & Lime, and Mesquite BBQ. A 1 oz. serving (roughly 1/4 cup) clocks in at 120 calories and 190 milligrams of sodium. Exception: the Chocolate and the Sweet Cinnamon have 100 mg of sodium (and about a teaspoon of sugar). All deliver 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 8 percent of a day's iron. Best of all, you're eating nothing but flavored roasted chickpeas.

Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas are equally delish, but have a bit more sodium (190 to 280 mg).

Double Dip

Some people don't snack on veggies because it's not enough to tide them over to the next meal.

Enter Sabra Classic Hummus, which comes in a four-pack of handy 2 oz. cups. Each mini-cup has 150 calories and 260 milligrams of sodium, plus 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 6 percent of a day's iron. The rich, flavorful dip is largely made from ground chickpeas blended with tahini (sesame paste), soybean oil, and garlic. Grab a bag of baby carrots and you're good to go.

Then there's Wholly Guacamole Minis. Unlike filler-heavy guacamoles, the 100-calorie cups are mostly seasoned mashed avocado. Each (2 oz.) Classic or Spicy mini-cup has 170 mg of sodium (the Avocado Ranch hits 290 mg) and just 1 gram of protein. But the 3 grams of fiber give them (along with hummus) an edge over most other dips or dressings for veggies.

To skip the sodium entirely, see if you can find the company's Wholly Avocado Minis. Their only ingredient: avocado.


Soybeans are special. When it comes to protein, they trounce all other beans. That's what makes Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame (green soybeans) an excellent snack to munch on or sprinkle on your salad.

One serving (1/4 cup) has 14 grams of protein, along with 7 or 8 grams of fiber and 10 percent of a day's iron, all for just 130 calories and around 150 milligrams of sodium.

You won't find many vegetarian snacks with 14 grams of protein. (A quarter cup of nuts typically has 5 to 7 grams.) Choose from Lightly Salted or--if you live dangerously--Spicy Wasabi.

Cruncha Ma-Me freeze-dried edamame delivers more sodium--160 to 280 mg--in its smaller (0.7 oz.) bag. True to its name, Cruncha Ma-Me's Naked flavor is sodium-free.

Holy Kale

Brad's Raw Crunchy Kale starts out as fresh organic kale leaves. "We then batter it up with flavorful, natural ingredients including raw cashews, sunflower seeds, & spices to give the kale that extra punch of flavor," says Brad's Web site.

"The product is then dehydrated below 115 degrees (retaining active enzymes) to transform it into a light, crunchy and delectable snack food."

Kale's nutrients are legend. It's loaded with vitamins A, C, and K and calcium, as well as lutein (which may reduce the risk of cataracts).

Unlike fresh kale, though, Crunchy Kale isn't essentially calorie-free. Each 1 oz. serving has around 120 calories (and 60 to 150 milligrams of sodium). Then again, it is kale. So if you can afford the price, enjoy!



"PopCorners are the delicious new snack with the snap of a chip and the same wholesome goodness as popcorn," says the bag. Not really.

A 1 oz. serving of popcorn has 4 grams of fiber. An ounce of PopCorners has less than 1 gram. That's because PopCorners chips ("the new shape of popcorn") are mostly ground not-whole-grain yellow corn plus sunflower oil.

And don't expect anything resembling popcorn from Kellogg's Special K Popcorn Chips either. Not when they're made from mostly ground corn and oil.


"Our toasted coconut chips are a delicious snack that provides loads of energy," says the Dang Toasted Coconut Chips Web site.

Don't get too excited. "Energy" on a food label just means "calories." And if you down the whole 1.4 oz. bag (just three-quarters of a cup) of the regular or Caramel Sea Salt variety, you'll get around 230 of them, plus 14 grams of saturated fat (three-quarters of a day's worth), 3 teaspoons of added sugar, and 230 milligrams of sodium. (The label lists half a bag as a serving. Pretty sneaky.)

Why snack on coconut chips when almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and other nuts typically have more vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, copper, protein, and the unsaturated fats that protect the heart? And nuts taste great (especially toasted), with no need for added salt or sugar.

Gimme None

"Candy Unjunked," say the Unreal bags. Yes, Unreal's M&M's clones (The Gimme Ones) are colored with purple cabbage juice, beetroot juice, and annatto and turmeric extracts instead of food dyes.

That trumps M&M's. But it's still candy (plus highly processed fiber). A 1 1/2 oz. serving has 190 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat plus 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. That's 1 1/2 teaspoons less than M&M's, but it doesn't make Unreal good for you.

Ditto for The Smooth One (think Milky Way), The Loaded One (Snickers), The Nutty Ones (Peanut M&M's), and The Double One (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups). They're lower in sugar but still candy.

Then there's Justin's All-Natural Peanut bar (milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel, and nougat).

"When hunger strikes, the last thing I want to do is read through a list of unpronounceable ingredients," says the label. "That's why I've created a candy bar you can feel good about eating." Sorry, Justin. There's nothing good about a snack with 270 calories, 6 grams of sat fat, and 5 teaspoons of sugar.

The trickiest: thinkThin bars. The Divine German Chocolate Coconut squeezes 170 calories into maybe ten bites. How do 6 grams of protein, 8 grams of (highly processed) fiber, 7 grams of sat fat, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar melt away pounds? And the Chunky Peanut Butter High Protein Bar replaces sugar with sugar alcohols, but still packs 240 calories into not much food. Maybe the bars just help you think of yourself as thin.

Giant Gimmick

"Made with Real Vegetables," says the Green Giant Garden Ranch Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips bag. "The deliciousness of garden vegetables and ranch flavor are paired to create a truly flavorful snacking experience."

Since when does a snack that's made mostly of corn (even if it's whole grain) and oil deserve to talk about "garden vegetables"? Turns out the chips have more ground corn, sunflower oil, and buttermilk powder than dried bell peppers, and more evaporated cane syrup (sugar) and salt than dried broccoli, tomatoes, or carrots.

Not to be outdone, Good Health Natural Foods Veggie Chips have more potato flour and oil than tomato and spinach puree--their main (non-potato) veggies.

Salt Jerky

Beef jerky's had a makeover. Brands like Krave have dumped the nitrites (that could be better, if their celery juice has less natural nitrites). They've also switched from sugar to evaporated cane syrup (that's no better).

Jerkys are high in protein since they're mostly beef, turkey, or pork. But they're also high in sodium--250 to 550 milligrams in 1 oz. (about a third of a bag) of Krave, for example. Oberto All Natural Jerkys pack 390 to 600 mg of sodium per ounce.

Ruby Bay King Salmon Jerky, with 810 to 960 mg of sodium--half a day's max--in a 1.25 oz. bag, is even worse. Even Primal Strips vegan jerkys--with their seitan, shiitake mushrooms, or isolated soy protein--squeeze about 350 mg into each strip.

Want salmon? Try Trader Joe's Wild Salmon Jerky (290 mg of sodium per ounce). Otherwise, pick up Whole Foods 365 Organic or Trader Joe's Turkey Jerky (270 mg per ounce).
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Author:Hurley, Jayne; Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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