Eating a little healthier can not only do wonders for your health, but also for your wallet.
The estimated annual cost of obesity-related illness in the U.S. is more than $190 billion — nearly 21% of annual medical spending in America. On top of that, diabetes costs Americans more than $200 billion, with heart disease costs topping $400 billion.
While Americans may not be able to control the cost of health care, they can take steps to better control their health. And to help you do that, here is a list of snacks that may seem healthy, but aren’t doing much good for your health.
13 snacks that seem healthy but aren’t (and alternatives)
1. Sports drinks
Most sports drinks are just made up of sugars, chemicals, and salt. While many people use them to hydrate, these drinks can cause a myriad of health issues in the body.
Solution: Try coconut water or chia seeds instead. Coconut water provides much-needed electrolytes, and both coconut water and chia seeds are great hydrators.
2. Energy/protein bars
If you look at the labels on some energy and nutrition bars, they look pretty similar to candy bars. In fact, earlier this year the FDA told KIND brand nutrition bars to stop using the world “healthy,” because the term is supposed to tell consumers that it’s relatively low in fat, which these bars are not. Many protein bars contain high levels of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy fats, chemical additives, artificial colors and flavors, and questionable preservatives.
Solution: If you’re looking for a good protein bar, the fewer ingredients the better. If you’re just looking for an extra boost of energy, experts say try a Chocolate Peanut Butter Quest Bar or a Think Thin Cinnamon Bun White Chocolate Lean Protein & Fiber Bar.
3. Almond milk
Many almond milks contain a chemical called Carrageenan that can disrupt your GI tract and cause other issues. Plus, almond milk lacks the most beneficial part of almonds — protein.
Solution: Make your own at home or look for a brand that doesn’t contain Carrageenan on the ingredients list. Soy milk can also be a better alternative to nut milks.
4. Diet soda
Drinking one soda per day can increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 40%, compared to a man who never drinks soda, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And studies have shown that diet soda isn’t any better — and in fact, may be worse. According to a Purdue University study, diet soda ‘can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain.’
This is, in part, due to the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas.
Solution: Drink water. Also, there are healthy alternatives to diet soda you can even make at home.
5. Instant oatmeal
Many types of single-packaged instant oatmeal can contain high levels of sugar and salt.
Solution: A better alternative is the big tub of oatmeal, and then you can add your favorite fruits or spices to each serving.
6. Frozen yogurt
The truth about frozen yogurt is that it is often loaded with sugars and other processed ingredients that aren’t good.
Solution: You can easily make your own ice cream or frozen yogurt in about 10 minutes at home if you have a small ice cream maker.
7. Skim milk
Remove the fat and we’re healthier, right? Wrong. Recent studies are showing people that consume healthy fats are actually able to maintain healthier weights. Those that drink whole or 2% milks end up fuller sooner, and do less binge eating to make up for the lack of fullness from skim milk.
Solution: Choose whole or 2% milk.
8. Turkey burgers
While they’re lower in saturated fats, sodium is usually higher. Plus, you’re also dealing with things like added growth hormones and an overuse of antibiotics.
Solution: If you do go for turkey, choose the organic option. Or you can try a veggie burger. Just be sure to choose one without a bunch of additives.
9. Reduced fat peanut butter
Skimming on the fat will get you things like partially hydrogenated oils, added sugars, carbohydrates, and sodium. And real healthy fats are actually good for the body.
Solution: Go with an all-natural or organic peanut butter. You can even make it easily at home and avoid the additives.
Because of the white rice, sushi is a high-glycemic food with very little protein that can result in rapid increases in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Solution: Order sushi ‘naruto’ or ‘sashimi’ and the chef will either roll your sushi in cucumber instead of rice or just serve it as is: fish only.
We see the word granola and suddenly feel like we’ve hit the mother of healthier snacking. Not so true. Many granolas contain way too much sugar and oils.
Solution: Make your own so that you know the ingredients that are going into it, or choose a simpler whole grain cereal for your morning routine.
12. Packaged turkey
Store-bought packaged meats can be packed full of sodium and preservatives.
Solution: Since it’s hard to avoid the convenience of packaged meat, experts say the best choice is to go with brands that don’t have more than 350 mg of sodium per 2 oz. serving.
13. Dried fruit
Many types of dried fruit contain added sugar and other preservatives to make them stay fresher for longer.
Solution: Fresh fruit. You can also dry your own fruit so it doesn’t contain as much sugar and added sweeteners.