Over the years I have become more health conscious of the food I eat simply because I want to live a healthier lifestyle. I strive to avoid harmful ingredients such as hydrogenated oils, artificial coloring and flavoring but it can difficult when so many of my favorite snacks contain them. After doing some research, I came up with a list of organic versions of childhood favorite snacks and compared their ingredients to the regular version. 

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats vs Made Good Vanilla Crispy Squares

Rice Krispies are a classic treat and a big part of my childhood, so you might imagine how I felt when I finally decided to look at the nutrition label. Datem, BHT, and artificial flavoring were just some of the alarming things I read on their website.

Made Good, on the other hand, does not contain any of these ingredients in their bars. Made Good bars are vegan, nut-free, certified gluten-free, and has six hidden vegetables — spinach, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, beets, shiitake mushrooms. So why not enjoy a tasty crispy bar and get some vegetables in for the day at the same time?

Winner: Made Good Vanilla Crispy Squares

ACT II 94% Fat Free Butter Popcorn vs G.H. Cretors Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Popped Corn

ACT II is a popular brand sold in most grocery stores and probably your go-to movie snack. Whether you buy 'Better for you' version or "Movie Theater Butter", ACT II uses TBHQ in their popcorn for freshness. But what is TBHQ? If only I knew without having to look it up. TBHQ stands for tertiary butylhydroquinone, sounds yummy, right? Wrong, it is an additive that acts as an antioxidant but is very different from natural antioxidants such as those found in blueberries. While small amount of TBHQ are not harmful, it is best to avoid it whenever possible.

In addition to avoiding artificial additives, G.H. Cretor's Organic EVOO Popped Corn is already popped and ready to eat. It is also certified gluten-free, non-GMO, and contains only three ingredients — organic popcorn, organic EVOO, and sea salt.

Winner: G.H. Cretor's Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Popped Corn

#SpoonTip: TBHQ is not harmful in small quantities and is regulated by the FDA.

Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bar vs Cascadian Farm Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bar

I remember chumping down three or four Quaker Oats bars at a time when I was younger, and I can't believe my parents let me. The ingredient list is anything but short and sweet. In addition to containing artificial coloring, BHT, whose health effects are still unclear, is added to these bars as a preservative. Cascadian Farm Chocolate Chip Bars already sound more appetizing simply because they are made with all natural flavoring. Plus, when you turn to their ingredient list, it is a lot more inviting than Quaker Oats. 

Winner: Cascadian Farm Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bars 

Cheez-It Original Crackers vs Anne's Homegrown Baked Snack Crackers

The biggest difference I found between Annie's Homegrown Crackers and Cheez-It Crackers was the additive used to protect flavor and maintain freshness. Annie's uses natural Vitamin E while Cheez-It uses vegetable oil (soybean and palm oil with TBHQ for freshness). As mentioned before, I think it's best to avoid TBHQ. 

Winner: Annie's Homegrown Baked Snack Crackers

Skippy Peanut Butter vs Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter

I'm pretty sure most people who love PBJ sandwiches buy Skippy. It's cheap, creamy, and easy to obtain, but there is one reason why you should stop buying it — hydrogenated oil. Skippy uses hydrogenated oil to prevent separation but this manufactured oil is anything but healthy. Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter, on the other hand, only uses peanuts and salt for their creamy peanut butter, making it trans fat free. 

Winner: Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter 

#SpoonTip: Separation of peanut butter or almond butter from oil is completely natural and safe. Stir the peanut butter until the oil is well incorporated to keep your PB creamy.

Frigo Cheese Heads String Cheese vs Organic Valley Cheese Snack Sticks

Most of the time there is a big difference between organic and non-organic versions of the same snack but for these two companies, the ingredients are pretty similar. Frigo Cheese Head's String Cheese is made from part skim mozzarella cheese, while the Organic Valley version contains organic cultured pasteurized milk, salt, and vegetarian enzyme. The major difference between the two companies is that Frigo has a lower saturated fat content but more sodium per cheese stick. Both options seem to have solid ingredients, so it's mostly just a matter of taste.

Winner: tie

Totino’s Pizza Rolls vs Amy’s  Cheese Pizza Snacks

Totino's does not list their ingredients on their website, or at least make it difficult to find, and for good reason. Their ingredient list is almost as long as a research paper that includes imitation mozzarella cheese, modified corn starch, Potassium Sorbate (preservative), Titanium Dioxide (Artificial Color), TBHQ, and so much more.

While Amy's Cheese Pizza Snacks are not as popular as Totino's and cost a bit more, they avoid artificial flavoring and preservatives in their snacks. So next time you're craving pizza bites, opt for Amy's because all the ingredients are familiar and easy to pronounce

Winner: Amy's Cheese Pizza Snacks 

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish vs Annie's Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies

In general, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and Annie's Homemade Organic Cheddar Bunnies have very similar ingredients. Upon further inspection, I found out that Goldfish contain autolyzed yeast, a flavor enhancer that is used as a less expensive substitute for MSG. Annie's does not use flavor enhancers but contains annatto extract, a natural food dye that is derived from the seeds of the achiote tree, giving these crackers their orange color. To protect their flavor, Annie's adds Vitamin E to their crackers instead of artificial additives.

Winner: Annie's Homemade Organic Cheddar Bunnies

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups vs Justin's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Reese's are pretty similar to Justin's Cups but differ mostly due to the addition of emulsifiers (PGPR) and preservatives (TBHQ) that are present in Reese's. Justin's Cups are made from Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa and other simple ingredients — organic peanuts, organic palm fruit oil, organic milk chocolate. Looking at the nutrition label, Justin's PB Cups contain more saturated fat (8g) compared to Reese's (4.5g) but have less sugar (16g vs 22g). 

Winner: Justin's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups vs Wildmade Organic Grape Fruit Rolls

For something that is called a Fruit Roll-Up, I expected the first ingredient listed on Betty Crocker's Fruit Roll-Ups to be some sort of fruit, instead it is corn syrup. The list goes on to include dried corn syrup, monoglycerides, acetylated monoglycerides, color (red 40, yellows 5 & 6, blue 1), and more. Wildmade Oragnic Grape Fruit Rolls have only two ingredients — apple puree and grape puree concentrate. Plus, one roll is equal to half a serving of real fruit.

Winner: Wildmade Organic Grape Fruit Rolls 

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts vs Annie's Homegrown Organic Strawberry Toaster Pastries 

Similarly to other non-organic snack versions, Pop-Tarts add TBHQ into their pastries for freshness. In addition, they have added colors such as Red 40 and Blue 1 to make their snacks look more appealing. While there were two ingredients listed on Annie's label that made me a bit skeptical — sodium alginate and sodium citrate, it still seems to be the better choice. On their website, it claims that their pastries avoid high fructose corn syrup and artificial/synthetic flavors, colors, and preservatives.

When it comes down to the nutrition, both are very similar. Each pastry is worth 180 calories, Annie's has 2g of saturated fat compared to Pop-Tart's 1g but Pop-Tarts contain a bit more sodium (180mg vs 120mg) and more total carbohydrates (38g vs 34g).

Winner: Annie's Homegrown Organic Strawberry Toaster Pastries

Utz Cheese Puff vs Moon Cheese Cheddar

The first ingredient listed for Utz Cheese Puffs is corn meal, not cheese. The list continues to include vegetable oil, artificial colors (Yellow #5 and #6), autolyzed yeast extract, maltodextrin, artificial flavor, and a whole lot more. Unlike Utz, Moon Cheese is made only with cheese. The ingredient list is short and sweet — cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto (vegetable color)]. 

Winner: Moon Cheese Cheddar

On average, organic versions of your favorite snacks cost more than the regulars one and it can vary from a couple cents to two dollars but I believe it is worth paying a little extra. Organic brands tend to avoid harmful additives such as hydrogenated oils, TBHQ, BHT, and other artificial additives. Whether you decide to purchase organic or not, I hope this article serves as a reminder to check the ingredient label before buying your favorite snacks.