Every child grew up favoring a particular sugary, salty or greasy snack; even those whose parents painstakingly monitored their diets with the hope of encouraging healthy habits probably snuck in a surreptitious candy bar or bag of chips from time to time. Unfortunately, however, many of these treasured childhood treats contribute to medical issues such as heart disease and diabetes later on in life if not consumed sparingly. People of all ages who must not adhere to a doctor’s stringent dietary guidelines should not entirely give up the nostalgic noshes they absolutely love at all, but they need to listen closely to what the nutrition labels tell them. Overindulgence in these goodies tastes great in the short term, but can eventually lead to serious problems as they grow older.
The delightfully ooey, gooey, sticky, chewy Twinkies tantalize children and adults alike, luring them in with a moist golden cake promising hidden creamy treasures if they make the effort to dig for it. But beneath the beloved Hostess snacks lurks health hazards as potent as a cobra’s bite. Twinkie consumption bombs the body with 15% of the saturated fat one needs in a day, 9% of the sodium, and 9% of the carbohydrates. For only 43 grams’ worth of sustenance, that’s certainly a lot - especially when one realizes the 2% worth of iron exists as its sole contribution to necessary vitamins and minerals.
2. Totino’s Pizza Rolls
Few guilty gustatory pleasures satisfy quite like a greasy plate full of piping hot Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Their small, compact shape perfectly accompanies a book or round of video games, freeing up a hand to turn pages or operate a controller. 18 rolls comprise an entire serving, but in spite of their filling attribute they nevertheless come laden with health issues. Providing 6% of the calcium and iron needed in a day does not make up for the 22% of the sodium, 17% of the total fat (with 15% of the saturated fat) and 230 calories!
Every Pringles variety comes saddled with varying levels of nutrition, but its original flavor surprisingly stands as the worst of the lot. At 14 crisps per serving, they fill a body with excessive fats before even putting a dent in hunger pains. Only 1 serving yields a whopping 17% of the total fat a human needs in a day! However, the low-fat sour cream & onion variety they fares better. While it does contain an excessive amount of sodium per serving (8%!), there are absolutely no fats lingering about, either. It may not be the best snack for Buffy and Junior, but it is still a healthier alternative to the original Pringles.
4. Fruit Roll-Ups
Parents who elect to ignore nutrition information labels tend to forget that the “fruit” in “Fruit Roll-Up” has more to do with the presence of high fructose corn syrup than anything resembling an apple or a strawberry. One of the comparatively healthier snacks on this list at only 50 calories - plus no cholesterol, low sodium and saturated fat, and 56% of the vitamin C needed in a day - these popular snacks still pose something of a problem for carb-counting kiddos. 10.84 grams of the 28 gram serving size are nothing but sugars. Better conduits for Vitamin C consumption exist out there. Like, say, actual fruits?
5. Planters Cheez Balls
Salty, vaguely cheesy spheres of puffy, greasy goodness certainly taste amazing in a guilty sort of way. Not guilty in a woman’s magazine way that demonizes anything edible in general, either. Guilty meaning that a measly 1 ounce serving delivers obscene amounts of fat and sodium that wreaks havoc on the cardiovascular system. Anyone looking for 15% of their total fat and 12% of their total sodium in a lousily tiny package should look no further. Anyone concerned about their own health as well as that of their children have more attractive options available.
6. Pop Tarts
As with Pringles, the nutritional value of Pop Tarts varies from variety to variety. Kellogg’s does offer a low-fat option - available in both Frosted Strawberry and Brown Sugar Cinnamon flavors - but even then, 1 52 gram pastry still yields 13% of the carbohydrates a human body needs in a day! That’s actually more than some of the regular flavors! However, the normal Pop Tarts come saddled with an additional 190 calories and 13% of the daily recommended allowance for sodium.
The most delicious Combo flavor of all - Pizzeria Pretzel - threw an ambiguously reddish, spiced paste and a satisfyingly salty pretzel together into one tasty, convenient snack. A tasty, convenient snack that also provides the body with 15% of the saturated fat and a staggering 19% of the sodium it requires daily! The Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Combos do fare slightly better, however. With no saturated fats or sugars as well as minimal cholesterol, they make for a slightly better alternative than the Pizzeria Pretzels. Just look out for that sneaky 13% DV of sodium…
Only a small handful of American and Canadian consumer outlets still carry Dunkaroos, the quintessentially ‘90s (though the product was originally released in 1988) snack consisting of a cookie to be dipped into a tiny vat of frosting. Kids loved them and their offensively stereotypic kangaroo mascot, but their impressionable young bodies sure didn’t! Dunkaroos come in a couple of different flavors with little variance in their nutritional value. The Shrek-themed cookies, for example, gave young ones 12% of their daily allowance for fat, 11% of their carbohydrates and 204 of their necessary calories! As delicious a treat as they are, it is probably for the best that Betty Crocker only releases them to limited markets these days.
The savory equivalent of Dunkaroos, Handi-Snacks contained crackers and a vaguely plasticized interpretation of cheese. Lesser-known varieties involve pudding, but children are generally more familiar with the Ritz and pseudo-cheddar packs that come with their trademark red, rectangular spreader. Unfortunately, venerable nostalgia starts dissolving when one realizes just how many issues these snacktime staples caused within his or her body. A 100-calorie Handi-Snack of crackers and “cheese” fills a poor kid up with 14% of the recommended daily allowance for sodium and 10% of the saturated fat. Fortunately for parents, alternatives such as carrots and apple slices provide the same level of portability with more of the nutrients children need to grow up healthy and strong.
Oscar Meyer’s eclectic Lunchables come large enough to serve as a meal for younger children and snacks for the older set. Consumers adore them for their portability, which allows them to carry the accoutrements for a pizza, hot dog, burger, taco, wrap, sandwich or some stacked crackers or nachos on the go. However, this convenience comes at the expense of one’s overall health and wellness. Even the “healthier” options still need considerable improvement. The “Fat-Free” Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stacker - one of their more popular offerings - seems the best of the lot, and even then victimizes anyone who dares shove it down their gullet. 1 serving provides 50% of the sodium humans need in a day, along with 18% of the carbohydrates and 22% of the saturated fat…in spite of being labeled “fat free?” This certainly illustrates the importance of checking those labels! Lunchables’ worst offenders, however, just ramp up the risks even further. Without the false promises of a “fat free” snack, the regular Turkey and Cheese Cracker Stackers unleash a veritable Gojira of calories, fats and sodium onto the unsuspecting body’s Tokyo. 48% DV of sodium, 22% of the cholesterol, and 45% of the fat - enough nastiness to make a person’s cardiovascular system scream in paralyzing agony just reading about it.
11. Krispy Kreme Doughnut
Few will argue the nostalgic comfort found in a Krispy Kreme Doughnut - most especially if they watched them magically coming to life on an assembly line as a child, hopefully munching on the freshest, warmest of the lot afterwards. As with every snack, Krispy Kremes are best enjoyed rarely and responsibly - no matter how tempting and delicious. One of their most popular offerings, the Traditional Cake-Chocolate Iced Doughnut, involves 15% of one’s daily allowance for saturated fat in addition to 13% of the sodium, 12% of the carbohydrates and 270 calories. Their full spectrum of offerings do differ from one another, of course, but none of them actually boast any real nutritional value.
Any candy bar could make it on this list, but few have garnered the same loyalty than the reliable ole Snickers. Its beloved marriage of caramel, nougat and peanuts ensconced in chocolate delights children and adults of all backgrounds while simultaneously killing them softly. When not consumed in moderation, of course. A normal 2 ounce bar contains 271 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat (26% DV!) and 35 grams of carbohydrates (12% DV). Snickers rarely fill anyone up, too, so the favored candy bars contribute very little to one’s diet while simultaneously packing it with excess fats, calories, and carbohydrates.
13. McDonald’s French Fries
Fresh out of the fryer, hot, salty, greasy McDonald’s French Fries can comprise a delicious meal on their own. Unfortunately, said meal may satisfy utterly, but offers very little in the way of necessary nutrition. Sure, everyone needs some starch in their diet. But do they need it bursting with a few too many calories (380), sodium (11% DV), fat (29% DV) and carbohydrates (48)? Supertasters take note - adding even more salt only makes it even worse. Try and keep healthier snacks on hand in the car, locker, office and/or home to curb the temptation to bum rush the drive-thru in search of piping hot fries slathered in delicious sodium chloride.
14. Hidden Valley Ranch
Kids plop Hidden Valley Ranch on everything from salads to pizza, and it makes for a wildly popular accompaniment to celery and carrots - sometimes the only way parents can convince their wee spawn to nosh on something nutritious for once. But this strategy, however useful, is actually rather counterproductive when it comes to teaching children how to seize control of their own diets and develop healthy eating habits. Sure vegetables are a necessity for growing bodies, but a 2 tablespoon serving - far less than what children normally consume - yields 22% of the fat a body needs in a day as well as 11% of the sodium. Pick up Hidden Valley Ranch Fat Free as a viable alternative that performs the same functions without any of the fats, fewer carbohydrates (2% DV) and only 50 calories, as opposed to the 140 in the original. Do be careful of that 13% DV of sodium, however.
15. Fruit Gushers
These popular fruit snacks garner quite a bit of love from children and sweet-toothed adults for their refreshing burst of liquid contained in the center. At 90 calories, 25% DV of Vitamin C and only 2% DV of fat per small package, they certainly seem healthy when held up to other snacks listed here. As with Fruit Roll-Ups, they contain little to no traces of any of the titular botanicals beyond a chemical approximation. Gushers do involve 13 grams of sugar, however, and beyond the Vitamin C they contain no useful nutrients to warrant regular inclusion in a healthy diet. Parents are much better off encouraging their children to eat actual fruit than chewy, sugary gummies.
It probably comes as a shock to many adults to realize the potentially dangerous, unhealthy and unproductive properties of their favorite childhood treats. Fortunately, understanding why they should be eaten rarely and with caution makes for a great motivator in taking control of portions and nutritional intake. Junk food need not suffer from demonization, it merely warrants a demotion in humanity’s diet - with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other cornerstones of a responsible meal filling in the gap it leaves behind.