10 "healthy" snack mistakes you're making
Lentil crisps, gluten-free biscuits and yoghurt-coated raisins: you may think these foods are healthier alternatives to your favourite snacks, but are they really all they're cracked up to be?
We look at some of the worst "health food" offenders on the shelves.
1. Yoghurt-coated raisins
The yoghurt coating on dried fruit and nuts doesn’t usually have a lot of actual yoghurt in it. In fact, by weight there is usually more sugar and fat than yoghurt. The type of fat that’s added is usually palm oil which is a type of saturated fat and that’s something we should be cutting down on. Why not try our frozen yoghurt coated strawberries instead for a refreshing snack?
2. Salted nuts
Nuts are a nutritious snack if they are plain and unsalted. They come with protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals. But when there are added flavours, whether that’s dry roasted, soy, wasabi, barbecue or seaweed-coated, these will all add salt. As well as having an effect on our blood pressure, salt also makes us thirsty, so if you are having a drink (whether sugary or alcoholic) with your nuts, you might drink more.
Choose plain, unsalted varieties, and remember nuts are still high in fat and calories - so limit your portion by putting a small amount in a dish and putting the rest of the packet away in the cupboard.
3. Lentil crisps
It is true that we should be eating more pulses and lentils, but there are better ways to get them into your diet. Made into crisps they come with added salt and fat, just like potato crisps. Make your own baked chickpea snacks instead by tossing a drained can of chickpeas in your choice of herbs and spices and then baking for about half an hour until crispy.
4. Root vegetable crisps
They might look more wholesome than potato crisps with their bright colours, but if you look more closely at the nutritional information you’ll see that they aren’t a healthier choice. When it comes to the amount of fat, salt and calories, there’s little difference between these and standard crisps.
5. Gluten-free biscuits and cakes
If you need to exclude gluten from your diet, for example because you have coeliac disease, then these products can be used as occasional treats to replace regular cakes and biscuits. However, the fact that they are gluten-free doesn’t make them healthier – it just means that they don’t contain gluten. They will still come with added sugars and saturated fat just like any other cakes and biscuits.
6. Sugar-free chocolate
Despite the removal of the sugar, this type of chocolate isn’t low in calories or fat. In fact, it may actually have more saturated fat per 100g than standard chocolate.
The sweeteners used for these products to replace sugar won’t raise your blood sugar levels, but they aren’t necessarily calorie-free and they may upset your digestive system if you eat a lot in a short space of time. It might be better to just have a small amount of the chocolate that you like.
7. Banana chips
Fruit is a good snack choice, and dried fruit can also count towards your 5-a-day. But despite banana chips often being near the dried fruit in shops, they’re not the same. Rather than simply being dried, banana chips are cooked in saturated fats like palm or coconut oil and also usually have sugar added. Look for dried banana pieces instead, which don’t have any added sugar or fat – or just eat a banana.
8. Vegan chocolate/truffles
Don’t assume that because something has been labelled ‘vegan’ that it means it’s a healthy choice or better for you than other products. Saturated fat can come from plant sources (in particular palm oil and coconut oil) as well as animal sources. And vegan chocolate can still be high in sugar (remember that maple syrup and molasses are sugar, and aren’t any better for you than white sugar).
9. Coconut yoghurt
Coconut yoghurt has become a popular substitute for dairy yoghurt, thanks to the increased popularity of veganism and plant-based diets. However, because it is made from coconut milk which is high in saturated fat, that means it’s not necessarily a healthy option.
Coconut yoghurt can contain around 10g of saturated fat per 100g - more than full-fat Greek yoghurt (which has 6g per 100g) or plain yoghurt (2.9g). If it’s the flavour you like, try a coconut-flavoured soya yoghurt, which is based on soya beans with a smaller amount of coconut milk added for flavour.
They might be made from oats and dried fruit, but when these are combined with sugar, syrup and butter this isn’t a healthy choice.
A flapjack contains about the same amount of calories as a chocolate bar, and although they may be more nutritious (because of the fibre and vitamins from oats and dried fruit), flapjacks should still be kept as an occasional treat. Get your oats from porridge made with low-fat milk instead.