1. Energy Bars
Especially when they tout how much fiber and protein they’re packed with — or how minimal their “net carb” count is — energy bars may seem like super-healthy snacks. (After all, they’re sold at health food stores and most gyms, and athletes eat them, so…?) But before you plop one of these plastic-wrapped blocks of “nutrients” in your mouth, consider how heavily processed most of them are.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, says the more ingredients listed on the label, the more manufactured (read: divorced from actual food) energy bars are. Common ingredients in many energy bars are fancy names for different forms of sugar, Kirkpatrick says. They spike blood sugar levels and court a crash later on without providing lasting satisfaction and energy.
Instead of reaching for a bar next time you’re struck with an afternoon snack attack, try slathering a few tablespoons of nut butter on an apple, or dipping a few carrot or cucumber slices with hummus.
2. Low-Fat or Fat-Free Yogurt
When a food product cuts out or reduces something we’ve learned is “bad” from its contents, we falsely conclude it’s “better” for us. Not necessarily, Kirkpatick cautions. Especially when it comes to nixing fat.
Great to take out the saturated stuff, she says. Not so great if manufacturers compensate for the tastiness lost in doing so by pumping their yogurts full of sugar. Many low-fat and fat-free yogurts are so high in sugar that they might as well be considered dessert. Dietary sugars can bump up bad cholesterol levels in your blood, defeating the purpose of picking less-fatty brands.
Check the labels on the low-fat or fat-free yogurts you’re considering, and opt for ones with no sugar listed at all in the ingredients, Kirkpatrick advises. Dairy naturally has sugar in it (it’s called lactose) but choose brands whose grams of the stuff is in the single-digits. Pro tip: Look for unsweetened Greek yogurts, which have less lactose.