Katie Sullivan Morford has some ideas on “How to Shop Smart in the Snack Aisle”:

One of the most hopeful signs that perhaps change is underway in our snack food nation was the bin of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas sold at the check out line of my local Target. That welcome sight flooded me with so much optimism, my kids worried that I might cry. Instead, I bought an apple in solidarity.
Sadly, this is hardly the norm. Grocery shopping at mainstream markets means running a gauntlet of super-processed snack foods.


Morford suggests a look under the hood:

Even if it looks healthy, packaged snacks can be deceiving. Have a peek at the ingredient list as well as the Nutrition Facts label, zeroing in on calories per serving, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and fiber.


A good rule of thumb: if something you eat has more than one ingredient, it’s a processed “food product.”  The more ingredients that are on the label, the more processed the “food” is.  And if you see an ingredient that seems better suited for a chemistry lab rather than a food label, it’s not food, so handle (and ingest) with extreme prejudice!

Morford also wants you to watch the sodium (salt) and sugars — especially the “added sugars” that will be posted more prominently on new updated food labels:

Even savory snacks are sometimes full of sugar and can often contain multiple forms of it, from dextrose to high-fructose corn syrup. Think twice about snacks in which sugar is listed as the first or second ingredient. Also be mindful of less processed sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey. Although they’re preferable to other options, from a nutrition standpoint, they’re essentially still sugar.


There are some great healthy, real-food (mostly) snack ideas at Morford’s excellent “Mom’s Kitchen Handbook.”  Two warnings, however: First, avoid the choking-shaped/-sized snacks with small children (like nuts, seeds, and popcorn); second, try to buy low-salt or better yet, unsalted snacks (especially the nuts and chips she suggests).

No matter your age and weight, you shouldn’t deny the importance and necessity of snacking.  Just keep snacking healthy and smart.  Parents who think their kids are picky eaters, yet see them growing just fine on our growth charts, should remember that snack calories count.  Children and adults who are watching their weight should understand the same.