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Grab-N-Go No-No’s: Healthier Snack Alternatives

Oct 18, 2017 02:00PM ● By Becca Newell
By Becca Newell

Whether you’re a grazer or a three-meals-a-day type, snacking is a welcome addition to any well-balanced diet. But before you grab that trail mix or other seemingly healthy on-the-go bite, you might want to take a closer look at the ingredients label. From “empty calories” to bad-for-you additives, we broke down some of those diet-unfriendly grab-n-go options, so you can snack away without the guilt!

Trail Mix

What’s so bad about nuts, seeds, and dehydrated fruits? The answer, depending on the specific ingredients within that store-bought trail mix, it could be “a lot.” Firstly, there’s the raw-versus-roasted nuts debate. While roasted and raw nuts are equal in terms of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber content, the roasted variety rate slightly higher in calories and have a little less iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than their raw counterpart. Additionally, be wary of salted nuts, which can tack on about 186 milligrams of sodium per serving! Then there’s the issue of added sugars, in the form of chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, or candy-coated chocolate pieces. Skip any bag that contains these sweet treats—it only adds “empty calories,” meaning calories without any nutritional benefit, and extra fat. If chocolate is a must-have in your trail mix, opt for nutrient-dense dark cacao nibs.



  • Raw Almonds
  • Raw Cashews
  • Roasted Sunflower Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Raisins

For a sweeter mix, throw in some coconut flakes and dried pineapple.
For a mix with a kick, add a few wasabi peas with a sprinkle of cayenne.

Added Sugars

It’s an ingredient that health professionals urge everyone to avoid, yet it’s becoming increasingly difficult to detect in processed foods, thanks to marketing strategies that refer to “added sugars” by a plethora of synonyms. Next time you’re scanning the label, be weary of the following ingredients:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Fruit Juice Concentrates
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert Sugar
  • Malt Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw Sugar
  • Sugar
  • Sugar Molecules Ending in “ose” (Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose)
  • Syrup


In an effort to eat better, you ditch the morning doughnut for a big ol’ bowl of granola and marvel at its deliciousness—sound familiar? That’s probably because that pre-packaged oats, flakes, and honey combo isn’t much healthier than the icing-drenched pastry. The problem lies in added sugars, of which processed granola has a lot. Typically, a cup of store-bought granola contains about 25 grams of sugar—that’s the recommended daily intake for women (it’s 36 grams for men), according to the American Heart Association. Additionally, granola isn’t exactly a low-calorie or low-fat food. One cup of pre-packaged granola contains about 420 calories and 11 grams of fat. There is, however, some silver lining to those who can’t do without a little of the crunchy stuff: granola provides a decent amount of nutrients, such as fiber, iron, zinc, and folate.

A healthier alternative to that morning bowl of granola and milk is a cup of Greek yogurt with a little—no more than a quarter of a cup—granola, particularly the homemade variety. We love adding a sprinkling of frozen blueberries, too!



  • Whole Rolled Oats
  • Silvered Almonds
  • Puffed Rice Cereal
  • Flaxseed

If you’re looking to bind the ingredients together, microwave a little raw honey and almond butter in a separate bowl before mixing with ingredients.

Protein Bars

You’re in need of an after-gym snack or in-a-pinch meal replacement and grab a protein bar. After all, it’s better than a candy bar, right? We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it might not be. The first item of concern is calories, as some store-bought protein bars can contain a lot—we weren’t kidding about the confectionary comparison! And while 200 or so calories isn’t necessarily terrible, it’s not ideal for those on a limited-calorie intake. Secondly, processed bars are often loaded with added sugars—some varieties have more than 30 grams! Add to those concerns the potential for partially hydrogenated oils, food colorings, and other additives and that innocent protein bar doesn’t seem quite so healthy.



  • Low-Carb
  • Protein Powder
  • Water or Low-Fat Milk

If a protein shake isn’t convenient enough, opt for a protein bar with about 30 grams of carbohydrates and about half as much protein. (For a typical post-gym snack, aim for a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio!). And if the product is made with high-fructose corn syrup, make sure it appears toward the end of the ingredient list!

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