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15 Snacks to Get Out of Your Pantry That Are Terrible for Our Bodies

Have you ever looked into your pantry and wondered if what’s there could be severely bad for your health?  Most of our shelves are full of various snacks, but we need to figure out which ones might do more harm than good. 

Interestingly, a recent study found that common usual snacks in our pantries, like ultra-processed chips, cookies, and sugary cereals, are not just making us obese but they’re also linked to a bigger risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. 

This eye-opening research emphasizes the need to reconsider our snack choices and opt for healthier, more nourishing options.

To help clean your pantry, here is a list of 16 snacks you should throw away now (or at least eat in moderation- not as a diet staple). Whether it’s due to high sugar content, unhealthy fats, or complex ingredients, these snacks are best left on the store shelves.

1. Potato Chips 

Potato chips with sauce
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Potato chips are one of the beloved snacks around the globe because they’re crispy, salty, and all too easy to finish in one go. However, you might want to ditch these for a healthier diet. 

The main issue with potato chips is their making process, which often involves deep-frying at high temperatures. It increases the fat content and also creates acrylamide, a chemical compound that is found to increase cancer risk

Additionally, potato chips are loaded with sodium, trans fats, and sometimes even sugar. They are high in calories and low in nutrients, increasing the risk of a range of health problems, including heart issues and high blood pressure. So, if you crave a crispy or salty snack, opt for a handful of nuts or piece of cheese instead.

2. Microwave Popcorn

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While it seems like a decent choice and movie nights are incomplete without it, microwave popcorn is unhealthier than you can imagine. The packaging of microwave popcorn contains PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl Substances). These PFAS prevent oil from soaking through the bag and have been linked to numerous diseases, including cancer.

A study published in 2019 found that people who ate microwave popcorn every day over a year had levels of PFAS up to 63% higher than average. Also, many microwave popcorn brands use artificial butter flavoring, like diacetyl, which might cause lung issues when inhaled in significant quantities.

While this chemical has been removed from many brands, microwave popcorn is still high in sodium and trans fats, which can contribute to many diseases over time. So, it’s better not to take any chances and choose healthier alternatives. 

Try making your own popcorn in an air popper or stove, then add tasty spices like cinnamon or paprika to give it a kick of flavor without all the junk.

3. Sugar Filled Cereals

Close-up of smiling young woman eating breakfast cereals of bowl at home
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Cereals are a breakfast staple in many households and are considered a delicious and nutritious breakfast option. But did you know they rank as the seventh biggest reason for added sugar intake among adults in the United States?

Starting your day with a high-sugar breakfast leads to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which in turn leads to a crash that leaves you feeling tired and hungry much sooner than if you had something healthier. This affects your energy and focus throughout the day and can contribute to long-term health issues like obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

Instead, choose oatmeal, whole grain cereals with low sugar content (they’re hard to fine!), or yogurt with fresh fruit to fuel your body properly.

4. Granola Bars

Granola bar
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Granola bars are sold as a wholesome snack, but this isn’t always true. Most granola bars in stores contain added sugars and syrups, which increases their calorie count and makes them more like a candy bar.

Moreover, they’re highly processed and have preservatives to keep them fresh longer. While they can be handy for a quick snack, they often lack essential nutrients. 

To make a healthier choice, read labels carefully and choose options that are high in fiber and protein but low in sugar. Or even better, try making your granola bars at home. This way, you can add all nutritious ingredients such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

5. Flavored Yogurts

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While yogurt is a good source of protein and calcium, flavored versions can contain as much sugar as a candy bar. This decreases their nutritional value and can lead to increased sugar consumption, which is not ideal for maintaining a healthy diet.

Unfortunately, if you choose sugar-free options, they usually contain artificial sweeteners, which have their own issues. They are low in calories but not necessarily healthier than real sugar. 

Opt for plain yogurt, where you can add your own sweetness with fresh berries or a dash of honey. This way, you can enjoy the health benefits of yogurt without the unnecessary added sugars.

6. Rice Cakes

Rice cakes
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Rice cakes are a go-to snack for health-conscious eaters due to their low-calorie content and simple ingredients. While they are a low-fat, gluten-free alternative to bread or crackers, they are made from puffed rice with a high glycemic index. This means it quickly raises blood sugar levels, causing a short energy boost and then a quick drop, often leading to increased hunger and overeating. 

Also, they are low in vital nutrients, including protein and fiber, making them less satisfying and nutritious than whole-grain or high-fiber snacks. To make them more balanced and satiating, you can choose whole-grain rice cakes and add toppings such as avocado, cottage cheese, or almond butter to provide healthy fats, proteins, and other nutrients. 

7. Packaged Crackers

Round Brown Healthy Crackers with Sea Salt
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Packaged crackers are convenient and might last forever, but packaged crackers are made with refined grains and added sugars and lack the fiber and nutrients found in whole grains. They can also be a significant source of trans and saturated fats, especially if they are made with hydrogenated oils.

Plus, the labels often are misleading, saying “whole grain” or “multigrain”, but if you look closely, you will see that they have refined grains as their primary ingredient. So ditch refined grains crackers and choose ones that list whole grains as the first ingredient and contain minimal added sugars, unhealthy fats, and additives.

 8. Frozen Meals

Frozen food from the freezer in the woman's hand
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Despite their convenience, frozen meals are often low nutritional value and are not great snacking options. Some evidence shows that the preservatives used to increase their shelf-life are potentially harmful to our health. 

In addition, frozen meals cannot compete with the fresh taste and quality of homemade food. The freezing also affects the texture of vegetables and meats, resulting in a less enjoyable eating experience. 

Many brands try to compensate for this by adding artificial flavors and sodium, which can mask the natural flavors of the food and are unhealthy. 

9. Soft Drinks

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A single can of cola can contain up to 39 grams of sugar. This amount greatly exceeds the daily recommended intake for adults. 

Consuming these sugary drinks regularly can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer. 

The empty calories in soft drinks mean they offer no nutritional benefits to our diets, such as vitamins or minerals. Moreover, soft drinks are often acidic, harming dental health by eroding tooth enamel over time.

These drinks often have caffeine, too. Too much caffeine can lead to addiction and various negative health effects. Also, soft drinks come with various artificial additives. For example, caramel color, which gives colas their classic look, and high-fructose corn syrup, a cheaper sugar substitute, are linked to health problems.

Ditch the soda altogether. If you miss the bubbles, try sparkling water with a dash of natural flavor, such as lemon juice.

10. Margarine

Cropped shot of woman putting margarine into bowl during pie preparation
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Margarine and other butter alternates that contain partially hydrogenated oils are sources of trans fats, which are harmful to heart health. They raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease.

Making simple swaps, like choosing grass fed butter, avocado, or hummus over margarine or crisco, can reduce your consumption of unhealthy fats and increase beneficial nutrients in your diet. 

11. Packaged Trail Mix

Organic Dried Fruit Trail Mix with Cherries and Bananas
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Trail mix can be a nutritious, energy-boosting snack, especially when made with an appropriate balance of nuts, seeds, and dry fruits. However, prepackaged trail mixes often contain high levels of added sugars and excessive salt.  

Many store-bought mixes also contain hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors, reducing their nutritional value. Make your own more nutritious trail mix, ensuring it’s good for you. Choose ingredients that offer healthy fats, protein, and fiber to keep you going.

12. Pretzels

Organic Brown Mini Pretzels with Salt
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You may think pretzels are a healthier snack alternative due to their low fat content, but they are high in sodium and refined carbohydrates. They are crunchy and can be hard to resist, but they can add to your daily sodium intake pretty quickly without significant satiety and nutritional benefits

Consider pretzel alternatives like air-popped popcorn or roasted chickpeas, which can satisfy the craving for a crunchy snack while offering better nutritional value. 

13. Sports Drinks

Man drinking a sports drink
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Sports drinks are marketed as the ideal hydration solution after intense physical activity, claiming to restore electrolytes and provide energy. 

However, many of these beverages are packed with added sugars and artificial flavors and colors, which might not be necessary for the average person’s workout recovery. Research suggests that drinking too many sports drinks can lead to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. The added sugar can also heighten the risk of metabolic disorders and plays a big role in causing dental cavities among adults.

These drinks contain sodium and potassium, which are vital for hydration and muscle function, and can also be easily obtained through a balanced diet. 

If you enjoy prolonged, vigorous exercise, you can make your own sports drink from natural ingredients, like lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and a natural sweetener. This will provide you with the necessary electrolytes without additives.

14. Instant Noodles

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Instant noodles are a popular convenience food known for their quick preparation time and tasty flavor. Yet, they provide little in the way of vitamins, minerals, or protein. Most instant noodles are high in sodium and saturated fats, due to their flavoring packets and the oil in which they are pre-fried. 

Regular consumption can contribute to increased blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease.

For a better alternative to traditional instant noodles, consider options made from whole grains or rice noodles that are lower in sodium and free from MSG and other artificial additives.

15. Doughnuts

Beautiful woman bites of the sweet donut
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Doughnuts, commonly deep-fried, are high in calories and contain a notable amount of unhealthy fats, including trans fats. A single glazed doughnut, for example, has about 190-300 calories, with a large portion of those coming from saturated fat and sugar.

These fats raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels, contributing to the risk of heart disease. Plus, excess sugar can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, promoting insulin resistance and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes over time.

Their lack of essential nutrients, such as fiber, proteins, and vitamins, makes them a poor choice for a meal or snack. 

Ultimately, some sugary snacks should be avoided or enjoyed only in moderation. Others require paying attention to labels to find healthier options. As a consumer, you get to choose what’s best for your body.

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