With shops full of snacks with health claims how do you spot the facts from fiction? Although the nutritional information and claims on the front of the packaging have to be true, it doesn’t have to be the WHOLE truth. Unsurprisingly food and drink manufacturers are keen to shout very loudly and clear about the positives while avoiding the nutritional negatives.
Look out for irrelevant and meaningless terminology such as:
‘honest’, ‘natural’, ‘superfood’ and ‘real food’. Colours, images and even fonts along with these empty phrases can trick you into thinking a product is healthy when it can be packed with ingredients full of salt, sugar and saturated fat.
The important thing to remember is that those individual healthy ingredients, when combined with high amounts of salt, fat or sugar, won’t make that product itself healthy.
A current snack trend is protein bars which are often sold as healthy products. Foods high in protein can be more filling than foods high in fats or carbs which is why many people try to increase their protein intake, but be mindful of ‘healthy high protein’ bars that are crammed with sugars and fats.
Similarly, there are cereal bars which ingredients and nutritional claims can vary wildly. Be mindful of that clever packaging as they can easily be crammed with high amounts of fats, salt and sugar. Avoid bars that are yoghurt coated or dipped on chocolate as they often contain palm oil. Extra calories can be found with the addition of caramel or coconut. Some of these bars can have more calories than a Mars bar and if you’re trying to lose weight you may be consuming calories more than you think while believing products to be healthy. If you choose to purchase cereal bars always check the nutritional information and look for ingredients such as nut and oats which are more filling and provide more fibre than refined cereals such as puffed rice.
Nuts and seeds can be a nutritious choice but as they are high in calories you need to aim for small portions (generally a small handful.) Avoid trail mix packs with ingredients such as coconut and dried banana as these will increase the amount of fat or sugar.
Watch out for healthy sounding wasabi and yoghurt varieties as these often contain lots of added salt and unnecessary fat.
Rice cakes and crispbreads can be a great snack but make sure to check their salt content. The toppings are equally important- try low-fat cream cheese, cottage cheese, avocado, tomatoes or bananas.
Popcorn can be a great low-calorie wholegrain snack. The popping of the corn adds air which can help you feel as though you are eating more than you actually are. Check the nutritional values as flavoured varieties can be high in salt and fat. You can easily make your own popcorn at home to control what is added and save money. Try topping such as herbs, cinnamon or chilli.
An easy way to avoid being misled and to save money is to make snacks yourself from scratch. Of course, it will take a little longer but will be more cost effective and that way you know exactly what you are consuming.