It's amazing, but Americans eat about 15 pounds of snack foods per person per year. That's a lot of calories that are basically empty of any real nutritional value. In response to many readers' questions, for the last few weeks we have reviewed a number of snacks, some of these in this Eat - Don't Eat column and others in the Friday Food Reviews.
With the holidays coming on, I thought that it might be helpful to have a simplified list of what's good and what's not.
Keep in mind, however, that all of these are snack foods and are pretty calorie dense. You are still better off eating an ounce of nuts than an ounce of tortilla chips.
Nuts. Simple. Nuts are good for you and there's tons of research to prove it.
Orville Redenbacher 100 Calorie Mini Bags. This is darn good popcorn and while I like the Kettle Korn variety best, the regular butter flavor is fantastic. Pop Secret makes similar 100 calorie serving sizes.
Kashi TLC Mediterranean Bruschetta crackers have a great flavor of basil and sun-dried tomato. They are just salty enough and would make a good choice for your next party. While they are high in calories just 4 of them have 120 calories -- they are also high in fiber at 3 grams per serving. They are so rich tasting that 4 of them are pretty satisfying.
Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheats have an understandable ingredient list. These are almost identical to Triscuits and have about 3 grams of fiber in a serving of 7 crackers. Nabisco Triscuits themselves have only 4 ingredients and are also high in fiber at 3 grams.
Newman's Own has a huge line of pretzels, but their high protein pretzels are really good and pack a whopping 4 grams of fiber in a serving of 21 pretzels. These are really tasty and have a saltier flavor than you would expect from the 230 mg in each serving.
Annie's Whole Wheat Bunnies have a nice nutty flavor with a hint of cheese. A serving is 50 bunnies with 3 grams of fiber. That's a lot more than Goldfish, which reports less than a gram for the same size serving.
Garden of Eatin' Baked Blue Tortilla Chips also have a lot of fiber and are lower in fat. The fat they use is high in Omega 3s, which is a bonus. These are really tasty and would be fantastic with your favorite salsa.
Garden Harvest Toasted Chips - Vegetable Medley and Tomato Basil flavors. Both of these are good, and as snack chips go, you would be able to serve these at a party and no one would know that they are better for you than potato chips and Fritos. An ounce is about 16 chips and is only 120 calories with 4 grams of fat. None of that fat is saturated fat and they have 3 grams of fiber.
Potato chips. This of course includes the standard snack foods like Cheetos, Funyuns, crackers, Goldfish and so on.
Triscuit Thin Crisps are thinner than the original, but they don't taste any different (if a bit blander), they're not healthier, and they have the same texture. Leave these on the shelf.
Kellogg's All-Bran Multi-Grain crackers don't taste like anything in particular and the Garlic Herb crackers taste like a cheap pizza parlor smells -- like a nose full of dried oregano. For something with a fair amount of fat and salt, you'll be much happier with a handful of nuts than a handful of these.
Really Don't Eat
Both the regular Orville Redenbacher and other regular microwave popcorns are really high in fat and calories. The same 6 cups of regular microwave popcorn in a bag has about 400 calories, a whopping 29 grams of fat and 700 mg of sodium!
Kashi TLC (Tasty Little Crackers). Neither the Original 7 Grain or the Fire Roasted Vegetable are at all tasty. Bland, dry and boring.
Really, Really Don't Eat
Garden Harvest Toasted Chips - Banana chips and Apple Cinnamon chips. Ugh! These are truly awful. I am not sure what I was hoping for, but I did expect more since the first ingredient for the Banana chips is actually banana and the second of the Apple Cinnamon is apples. Both of these taste artificial, however.
A bag of Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips is about the same size as one of the Mini Bags of popcorn fully popped. The difference is that the Mini Bag of popcorn is 100 calories and the Stacy's is 6 servings at 130 calories each. It'd be different if you got something for all those calories (780 calories vs. 100 calories), but these taste like a mouth full of white flour with some fat and salt.