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Is That Snack Working for You? Read the Label!

Last week my daughter and I decided to treat ourselves to dessert from Whole Foods’ gluten-free fridge full of baked goods. Unfortunately, we read the label AFTER we ate the cupcake we split. We discovered that it not only had 530 calories (what???), but also 56 grams of sugar, 33% of the recommended fat grams for the day, and very little else in terms of nutrients. A true lesson in practicing what you preach!

Requiring your on-the-go foods to have some nutrition is a great way to make sure you don’t overeat. If we reach for snacks that give us nutrition rather than just a quick carb fix, we will eat less overall and get our bodies working better. In the weight loss groups we sponsor we spend an entire class on label reading and here are our top suggestions for finding snack foods that fuel you:

  1. Make sure it provides at least 20% of one nutrient, or 4-6% of several others.
  2. Look for snacks with 5 grams or less of sugar and 5 grams or more of fiber.
  3. Simple ingredient lists are best. Look for 5 ingredients or less and make sure you know what they are (cellulose is a plant material).
  4. Check the serving size! On one bag of Cheetos we examined, the serving size was 4! I doubt anyone looks at that and I really doubt anyone eats 1/4 of the package.
  5. Get some protein in your snack–at least 3 grams.
  6. Choose something with 20% or less of the Recommended Daily Value (RDI) for fat. An exception would be for nuts, which contain healthy fats.
  7. Check sodium levels. They should be 10% or less of the RDI.

If you are in a gas station in the middle of nowhere and are starving, pick the lesser of evils. Believe it or not, a Reese’s peanut butter cup package of two meets most of the requirements. Not that we are encouraging you to eat that, but in case of emergency!

Just as notable as what is in your snack foods is what is NOT in them. The better snack companies are now adding information to their package on what you won’t find in their product. Great things to avoid are preservatives, dyes, gluten, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), artificial sweeteners, MSG, nitrates, and hydrogenated oils. So remember, choose wisely! Reduce cravings by giving your body something that will stick with you rather than empty calories.