Healthy Snack Options: Can You Spot the Impostors?


Recently the snack machines in our break rooms and at all Baylor facilities had a healthy makeover. But I noticed they removed some snacks I thought were pretty healthy only to replace them with very similar products. What gives?

I asked Stephanie Dean, a registered dietitian with Baylor’s Tom Landry Fitness Center to explain. She said that just because two choices look the same doesn’t mean they are. Appearances can be deceiving. When choosing a healthy snack, don’t make your decision based on the calorie count alone.

In the video below, Stephanie showed me five examples of two very similar snack items and gave some great advice on how to make the healthier choice. I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when she revealed the “healthy” impostors. Can you pick the better choice?

1.  GRANOLA OR PROTEIN BARSGreat options to grab and go!

Option #1
90 calories
1 gram of protein

Option #2
100 calories
9 grams of protein

If you choose option #1 you’ll probably get hungry in about an hour. You want to pick a granola bar with about 9-10 grams of protein, that should sustain your energy level for three hours. So even though Option #2 has a few more calories, you won’t be tempted to grab another snack later in the day.

WINNER: Option #2

2.  FRUIT SNACKSWhen you’re craving something sweet!

Fruit Chews
Full of processed sugars

Option #2
Clementine Orange
Easy to grab, less carbs

The packaging on fruit chews may have phrases like “Counts as a serving of fruit” or “100 percent fruit juice.” Check the ingredients, if corn syrup or sugar are listed as two of the top three ingredients, that means there is a lot of added processed sugar.

Instead chose something like a Clementine, an easy-to-grab, easy-to-peel option. The fruit will have fewer carbohydrates than a package of fruit chews.

WINNER: Option #2

3.  CHEESE STICKSThe perfect companion for your sweet snack.

Option #1
Light Mozzarella
1.5 gram saturated fat

Option #2
4.5 grams saturated fat

If you decide to have a piece of fruit, add a protein to help sustain you so you don’t get hungry after an hour. Which cheese stick should you choose?

Check the saturated fat content. Saturated fat, in excess, can clog your arteries. Pick the option with lowest amount of saturated fat.

Remember: when it comes to cheese, go with the “Light and White!”

WINNER: Option #1

4.  JERKY—Beef or Turkey, both can be healthy choices!

Option #1
110mg Sodium per 1 oz

Option #2
600mg Sodium per 1 oz

There are a lot of healthy choices when it comes to jerky. Who knew? The key is a low sodium content. If you’re trying to watch your blood pressure or reduce your risk of stroke you definitely need to be keeping track.

Stephanie’s recommendation: when it comes to snacks you want 200mg of sodium or less. For meals, stick to 600mg of sodium or less.

WINNER: Option #1

5.  CHEESE AND CRACKERSA great carb/protein combo!

Option #1
140 calories
Hydrogenated oils

Option #2
190 calories
0g Trans Fat

Cheese and crackers are a great choice as a healthy snack. But even though they have similar calorie counts, they are not created equally. Both options list “0g Trans Fat” on their packages, but that may be a little deceiving.

Did you know? If a food contains 0.5g or less of an ingredient, they don’t have to list it on the nutrition label. Check the ingredients list – if you see the phrase “hydrogenated oils” that’s code word for Trans Fats, which are a BIG “no no.”

Remember hydrogenated oils = Trans Fats

WINNER: Option #2


Here’s one last tip when it comes to snacking: Watch your portions. A serving size may be smaller than you think. For example, one serving size of trail mix is only about 1 ½ handfuls. So that’s all you need to keep you full and satisfied for about three hours.

About the author

Jennifer McDowell
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Jennifer is a public relations professional who assists the Baylor Scott & White Health team on numerous projects. Born in Tennessee, she came to the “Big D” by way of SMU. Prior to this gig, she was the associate producer of an award-winning syndicated medical news segment.

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Healthy Snack Options: Can You Spot the Impostors?