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Unhealthy Snacks Dietitians Say You Should Throw Out Right Now

These snacks may satisfy your cravings, but they're not doing much for your health.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

If you ask me, snack time is one of the best times of the day. When the mid-morning slump or afternoon crash hits, nothing is better than being perked up by a yummy sweet treat or a satisfying salty crunch.

While snacks can certainly fit into a healthy lifestyle, and when selected appropriately can help fill important nutrition gaps, there are some choices that do absolutely nothing for you in the health department. And in some cases, certain snacks can actually work against your health goals.

As a registered dietitian, I know that in a perfect world, people would only eat snacks that are nutrient-dense and low in sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients. Unfortunately, the reality is that people eat snacks for reasons beyond hunger and meeting nutritional needs. Boredom, environmental factors (like needing to munch on popcorn when you go to the movies), and convenience can all play a role in snack choices and can make the nutrition consideration fall to the wayside.

No food should be completely off-limits for the rest of your life. Depriving your body of foods that you love can lead to overindulgence and overeating. But, instead of leaning on unhealthy snacks as your daily boost, save them for a once-in-a-while treat. Generally speaking, these foods should be limited. And if you have zero self-control, perhaps tossing them from your pantry or fridge so you don't have temptation staring you right in the eye every day should be something to explore.

We rounded up the snacks that registered dietitians think people should stop eating regularly because they are not the healthiest choices. Swapping these choices out with fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and other less-processed, less-sugary, and less-salty options can not only help you eat a healthier diet, but this change can also help you feel better and more energized in the long run. Happy snacking, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss these 50 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim.

1

Utz Potato Chips

utz potato chips

Not to diss the humble potato, as this veggie is naturally loaded with important nutrients like fiber and potassium. But once this tuber is fried and showered in salt, we are left with an unhealthy snack that is full of fat and sodium with little nutrition per bite. Plus, data shows that potato chips are the number one food most closely linked to weight gain over a four-year period.

Swapping out classic potato chips with protein-rich Wilde Brand Chicken Chips allows you to enjoy that satisfying crunch along with a satisfying boost of the satiating nutrient. Eating these chips (that are really made with natural chicken breast!) may help you feel more satisfied thanks to the protein content, which in turn, may help you eat less in the long run.

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2

Cheese Puffs

cheese puffs
Shutterstock

Those old-school snacks that make your fingers turn orange and offer a boost of cheesy flavor are loaded with salt, artificial ingredients, and unhealthy fats. Loading up on these noshes will basically give you nothing nutrition-wise and may stain your favorite white pants to boot.

Instead, opting for more natural options like HIPPEAS chickpea puffs offers a cheesy flavor without the empty calories. Vegan-friendly and made with real chickpeas, these satisfying snacks contain fiber, plant-based protein, and natural antioxidants to keep you going. And your fingers won't turn neon orange when you eat them with your bare hands. (Read more: What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Chickpeas.)

3

Salt and Vinegar Pringles

pringles salt and vinegar

Nobody will fault you if you love the combo of salt and vinegar on your snacks. But downing these chips can be one of the unhealthiest choices out there. Eating one serving of these chips gives you only one gram of protein and no fiber, which can leave your tummy rumbling shortly after you pop the can.

A better-for-you option with an equally satisfying salt and vinegar zing is Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Sea Salt and Vinegar. Unlike potato chips, pistachios offer a good source of protein and fiber, with more than three times as many pieces per serving. Each one-ounce serving gives you 49 pistachios, compared to just 15 potato chips. (And who eats just 15 potato chips?). Plus, Wonderful Pistachios is a complete plant protein, providing all nine essential amino acids.

4

Shelf-stable frosting

frosting
Shutterstock

Snacking on cupcakes, cakes, and other treats with pre-made and shelf-stable frosting can load your body up with unhealthy fats, sugar, and other unsavory ingredients. Better to skip the frosting altogether or make your own using pureed avocado instead of butter. Or, top your treat with a small dollop of homemade whipped cream for a less processed and equally satisfying addition.

5

Popsicle Double Pops

popsicle double pops
Courtesy of Popsicle

With high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient, eating these pops will give your body a boost of sugar (19 grams of added sugar to be exact) without much else.

For a frozen treat that contains no added sugar and is just as refreshing, try Chloe's No Sugar Added Strawberry fruit pops. These pops are made with real fruit, allulose, and monk fruit – making these just as sweet but without the unhealthy additions.

6

Fun Dip Candy

wonka fun dip candy

"Fun Dip candy is flavored sugar. It comes with a stick made out of sugar to dip in each different flavored sugar pouch. This snack can cause dental caries and weight gain. This snack also does not contain any nutrients (like vitamins, minerals, etc)," says Ashley Harpst, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Go For The Gold Nutrition.

If you just need to dip into something sweet, try crushing Sow Good freeze-dried fruit and using sliced and peeled fruit sticks (like an apple or a pear) as your stick.

7

Dippin' Dots

dippin dots ice cream in plastic helmets
Karolis Kavolelis/Shutterstock

Loaded with corn syrup and artificial ingredients, these little ice cream balls are fun to eat but aren't so great for our health.

You are better off enjoying Wyman's Just Fruit if you are craving tiny spheres of sweetness. This snack is a frozen mixture of frozen wild blueberries, and depending on the variety you choose other chopped fruit and either tiny frozen balls of Greek yogurt or pureed banana. You will still get the satisfaction of letting those little icy spheres melt in your mouth, but with a dose of natural fruit. And with under 50 calories per cup and with nothing artificial added, these frozen treats are much better for your overall health.

8

Sour Patch Kids

sour patch kids package
Courtesy of Sour Patch Kids

Many people reach for gummy candies when the 3 p.m. slump strikes. And Sour Patch Kids tend to be a fan favorite thanks to the sweet and sour combo that it provides. But, these classic treats give you absolutely nothing when it comes to nutrition. All you get when you chew on these treats is a dose of sugar and artificial colors and flavors.

Opting for sweet and sour snacks that also contain some nutrition, like Raisels Sours, can satisfy your need for these treats while giving your body some natural nutrients, like fiber and potassium–thanks to the use of real golden raisins as the base. These snacks taste surprisingly similar to Sour Patch Kids, but with no questionable ingredients. And for more healthy snacks, check out these 10 Weight Loss Snacks That Actually Satisfy, Recommended By Dietitians.

Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more