50 So-Called “Healthy” Snacks That Are Secretly Destroying Your Body

Whether because of the sneaky calories you don't realize you're getting, or the toxins in the packaging you never suspected were there, there are many snacks that could be sabotaging your health. Here are the top offenders.

1/49 View as List

Frozen yogurt

While fro yo itself is a good treat, it's easy to eat it the wrong way. "People go to a frozen yogurt place and think 'Hooray, I'm being so good by having yogurt instead of ice cream, I can pile peanut butter cups and chocolate syrup on top.' What was initially a good choice is now 600 to 900 calories," says Angel Planells, MS, RDN, Seattle-based founder of ACP Nutrition, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Your best bet instead is to go light on the extras, he suggests: "Two or three toppings max—think fruit, nuts, maybe a small drizzle of chocolate syrup—otherwise you may as well just eat some ice cream." For more frozen snack variety, try one of these summer treats.

Flavored yogurt

"I get it, some people just aren't fans of plain yogurt," Planells concedes. "But when you have flavored yogurt, you're getting additional sugar." Rather than subjecting yourself to all the added sweeteners from a company, have plain yogurt and add fresh fruit yourself, he recommends. "You could go to the store and get Brand X yogurt with 35 grams of added sugar, or you could have plain yogurt and a handful of blueberries for only 15 to 20 grams—and still get the sweetness." Consider these 10 healthy yogurt toppings to keep things interesting.

Your co-worker's candy bowl

If you're trying to focus at work but notice your energy level dropping, it's all too easy to reach for the worst thing for you: The sugary snack. "You have a piece of candy and get that immediate burst of energy entering your blood stream, but it only lasts a short period then drops," says Libby Mills, MS, RDN, a Philadelphia-based nutrition and cooking coach, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "There's such a thing as rebound hypoglycemia, which is when your body feels worse after eating a cookie or candy because your blood sugar falls perhaps even lower than where it was before you had the sugary snack." Such a drop could prompt you to reach for another piece of candy for more sugar, setting up a bad cycle. (Did you know there's a scientific reason you can't resist pink and red candy?)

Rice cakes

OK, so rice cakes may seem the very definition of a healthy snack, but they still come with concerns. Although they're low in calories, they're made from processed white rice, which is high in carbohydrates that could spike your blood sugar levels, says Shape.com. And if you choose a brand with flavorings, you're also consuming extra salt and sugar. "So even if your net calories are low, munching on these nutrient-void disks is about as healthy (and tasty) as eating Styrofoam packing peanuts," Shape.com concludes. Here are some other unhealthy foods you've been tricked into thinking are good for you.

Pretzels and other processed foods

pretzelsOzgur Coskun/Shutterstock
"I see lots of folks reaching for pretzels because they're low-fat or fat-free, and maybe they're made with less sodium, which is awesome," says Mills. "But in general, these snack foods have been processed in such a way that you're not getting the maximum nutrition." For example, foods from pretzels to muffins can be made with white flour—as opposed to healthier whole grains—which digests very quickly and therefore acts similarly to eating a sugary snack: you'll get that initial energy burst, but it may not last. Reach for one of these healthy snacks instead.

Trail mix

Nuts and dried fruit mixed together? Sounds pretty healthy. And if you stick to a responsible portion size of a brand that uses plain, unsweetened dried fruits and unsalted nuts, it just may be, says Shape.com. The problem is that many mixes include add-in's like chocolate chips and M&M's, which introduce excess salt and sugars. "Since a small handful easily contains 300-plus calories, read your nutrition labels closely!" the site warns. (These are the top 5 healthiest nuts you can eat.)

Fat-free cheese

While "Fat-Free!" looks good on everything from cheese sticks to salad dressing bottles, there are three things you need to realize, Planells explains. First, some fats are healthy: "When you're consuming fat-free foods, you're missing out on some heart healthy fats, such as poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, as well as omega 3 fatty acids." Second, you're likely consuming fat replacements: "When foods are fat free, extra sugar or extra sodium is often added to compensate for the lost flavor." Third, you could overeat: "Due to the lack of fat, we could not feel satisfied from our snack choice, potentially leading to overeating." Find out other dairy myths you need to stop believing.

Flavored soy milk

If you're considering buying soy milk you're off to a great start; this beverage is low in cholesterol and high in potassium and protein. But if, instead of plain soy milk, you choose the chocolate or vanilla version, you're taking a big step back. "They add so much sugar and unnecessary calories," says Shape.com. "Save the flavored soy milks for the occasional dessert and choose unsweetened or plain varieties for your everyday drinking instead." (Here are some other healthy swaps to make if you want to ditch dairy.)


Although this snack conjures images of hiking and nature, it's not always the best choice. "Granola definitely has a health halo around it that makes you think, 'Oh I'm eating granola, I'm being good!'" says Planells. But this snack carries the twin pitfalls of portion size problems and added sweetness. "Granola is usually sweetened, so you're getting extra sugar in the mix," Planells points out. "It's more decadent than having plain cereal, such as oatmeal. So if you do eat granola, either go for the unsweetened variety or be mindful of your portions." Or for more control over the ingredients, try our recipe for homemade granola.

Reduced-fat peanut butter

What could be better than getting a yummy snack like peanut butter with fewer fats? It's actually smarter to avoid the reduced-fat version. "Peanuts are full of healthy monounsaturated fats, so when it comes to choosing a peanut butter, it's best to go with a natural version of the full-fat variety," says Shape.com. "Most reduced-fat versions contain the same number of calories per serving because when they take the fat out, they add sugar and other fillers in. Ick!" If you're tired of peanut butter, try one of these five alternatives to peanut butter.

1/49 View as List

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.