I was in the grocery store and headed to the snack aisle to grab some Pirate’s Booty. Don’t judge – they’re my 5 year old’s favorite treat.

But, I noticed something terrible in the snack aisle, in an age when we are smarter consumers, with resources to learn and be smart about what we’re eating. I discovered “Skinny snacks.”

Popcorn, veggie sticks, Non-GMO this and that. Gluten-free pretzels. There was even a bag of some chip that introduced itself: “Hi! I’m your Sweet Potato Chip!” or something like that. It really should have said, “Hi! I’m still 140 calories per serving, and if you eat the whole bag, it’s still going to be like eating a Big Mac!”

Why do I need my food to introduce itself to me? Will it be less fattening if I’m on a first name basis with it? How is that even a marketing campaign? I wonder if it’s working.

I digress.

Sweet potatoes are still 100% carbs. So is non-GMO corn, whole grain wheat, or any other grain. Yes, sweet potatoes are better for you than white ones because they have more fiber, a ton of potassium and Vitamin A, are raw, and healthier than any kind of white potato. Non-GMO corn is probably better for you than GMO corn (though they’re still working on studies that prove that). Whole grains are better than processed grains. But when any of these ingredients show up in a plastic bag in the snack aisle, all of that changes. Even if it’s been fried in expeller pressed canola oil and tossed in sea salt: it’s STILL snack food! And, unless you read really carefully, is not any better for you than the other stuff.

There’s a brand of popcorn that calls itself ‘skinny.’ It has pulled out all the stops to make you think it’s a healthier snack than a regular old bag of potato chips. The bag says: Gluten free! Sugar Free! Preservative free, dairy free, peanut free and that it’s 39 calories per cup. Really??? Popcorn is popped corn, not popped wheat. So yeah, popcorn is ALWAYS gluten free. Sugar free. ALL Popcorn is sugar free, until you add sugar to it. Peanut free. Well, as long as popcorn isn’t popped in peanut oil and, like being sugar free, isn’t mixed in with peanuts…it is peanut free! Dairy free? Really?? It’s popcorn!! That said, they have a cheddar flavor that they STILL say is dairy free. What are they making that cheddar flavor out of?! This particular brand makes theirs out of lactic acid and rice flour. Now, the preservative free and 39 calories per cup thing really intrigued me so I looked it up.

Next time you have popcorn, take out a measuring cup and fill it with popped popcorn. It’s a little more than a handful. ONE handful. Better still, on the front they proudly proclaim 39 calories per cup, but the nutritional facts measure a serving size of 3.5 cups, which is 150 calories. Finally, there’s the ingredients. They’re proud that their ingredients are so basic: corn, salt, sunflower oil, no preservatives.

Just for comparison, I picked up a bag of name brand potato chips. Are you sitting down? 1 oz is considered a serving of chips (not sure how many that is, they don’t list the number of chips) 150 calories and the ingredients are: potatoes, sunflower and/or corn oil, salt, no preservatives. Also gluten free, dairy free, peanut free, and sugar free.

My point is if you want a healthy snack that isn’t going to put a single fat cell on your middle, get out of the snack aisle and get over to the produce section.

If you’re bored with celery and carrots, pick up a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before. Find new, fun, HEALTHY things to dip your fruit and veggies into. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on a fresh apple or banana. Slice up a plantain and fry it in a little olive oil. Make a smoothie. Go online and search for new, interesting recipes for your veggies.

But if you’re going to eat snacks from the snack aisle, just be honest with yourself about it.

Don’t expect to ‘get away’ with something because you’re eating the ‘skinny snack.’
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If it’s in the snack aisle, it’s loaded with any variation of salt, oil, sugar and fat. If you REALLY WANT the salty snack but know that you’ll keep eating till you find the bottom of the bag, portion it out into resealable bags so you at least SEE that you’re eating multiple servings in one sitting. I’m not saying you should never have snacks – we all just want a pretzel or chip every now and then. Just be real with yourself if you’re choosing the chips and pretzels over fresh fruits and veggies. Got a great healthy snack idea? Share it below.

Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates instructor, and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening—empowering her clients to heal not only their physical bodies but their hearts and minds as well. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events, and custom programs, visit hayleyhobson.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.