Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q: Making healthy choices for snacks or quick meals can be difficult.  Many so called “Healthy Choices” aren’t really healthy.  Some may even pose dangerous health risks. How do we choose?

A: Reading labels and doing some research is a good start to rule out unhealthy snacks.  Some foods sound healthier than they actually are so it’s good to remember that what advertisers “put on a box” may not be exactly what is “in the box.” The June 2019 edition of Consumer Reports on Health ( issued the following warnings, along with suggestions for healthier snack choices:

  • VEGGIE STICKS – According to Joan Salge Blake, Ed.D., R.D.N., clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University, these “produce pretenders” are not much better than potato chips because of their high Air popped pop corn is a healthy choices for snacks calories and sodium and very little vegetable powder or fiber. Better choice:  Air-popped popcorn is a healthy choice, for whole grains, fewer calories, and more fiber.  Better still if you sprinkle it with herbs instead of salt.

  • RICE CAKES – “Even though they’re made with whole-grain brown rice, they provide little fiber, which helps curb your appetite. And like other rice products, they may contain arsenic which may pose a dangerous health risk.”  Flavored varieties may add lots of calories and sugars.  Better choice:  Choose a fiber-rich cracker and top it with healthy foods (such as peanut butter and sliced banana, or hummus with sliced tomato and cucumber) to make your snack more satisfying.

  • SPINACH WRAPS – They may look green, but they don’t really count as green vegetable intake, since that hue may be due less to spinach powder than to food coloring, according to Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., R.D., nutrition and dietetics instructor at St. Louis University. Better choice: Choose a multi-grain wrap instead, for more fiber, then use plenty of veggies in the filling.

  • PROTEIN POWDER – Protein powders are unnecessary, because we get enough protein from food, says Linsenmeyer. Also, some brands contain “concerning levels of heavy metals and other toxins which may pose dangerous health risks.” Better choice:  “Greek yogurt, silken tofu, tahini, or peanut butter can add a reasonable amount of protein to your smoothies and supply additional nutrients.”

  • GROUND TURKEY – A turkey burger may not be much better than a beef burger if the ground turkey contains dark meat and skin. Better choice:  Select ground turkey breast, which contains neither dark meat nor skin, therefore containing less fat.

  • BRAN MUFFINS – Beware of large bran muffins that may be loaded with sugar. Better choice: Pair a small bran muffin with a serving of yogurt and berries for a more balanced breakfast, or skip the sugars in the muffin by layering plain yogurt with fruit (such as bananas and berries) and a high-fiber cereal (such as Original All-Bran).

  • GRANOLA – Despite a mixture of oats, fruit, and nuts, many granolas have lots of calories and added sugars and fats – and even surprising ingredients such as whey protein concentrate.” Better choice – Use granola as a topping to a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal (such as Shredded Wheat), or sprinkle it on plain yogurt to add some crunch and sweetness.

  • INSTANT OATMEAL – “Packets and cups [of instant oatmeal] tend to have far more sugars than you’d add to oatmeal yourself.” Also, processed oats can cause a spike in blood sugar more than rolled oats.  Better choice:  Consider cooking a batch of steel-cut oats in the evening to have for breakfast for the next few days.  “Microwave a serving, add fruit, a little nut butter, and cinnamon or nutmeg.”

I hope these suggestions will help you snack more healthily.  Reading food labels is always a good idea.