Millennials are eating more and more snack foods. Snack foods currently make up about 40% of the packaged foods sales in the US, and that number is only increasing. Healthier snack options are a huge part of this market—for good reason. Our population is clearly interested in eating healthy foods, the only problem is that we’re often looking in the wrong places.

I consider myself to have a relatively healthy diet. I pay attention to what I eat and I don't remember the last time I bought something without looking at the nutritional label and ingredients. There are foods that I try to avoid, and that’s the highly processed foods—especially the ones that are “healthy.”

By “healthy,” I mean processed foods that are designed to appear healthy and be convenient. These foods include protein bars, protein supplements and pre-made smoothies. All these “healthy” foods have a purpose, but so do real foods, and they do it much better. 

There are so many reasons why real foods are best for our bodies, and a few reasons to avoid "healthy" foods that shouldn't be ignored.

There are good macros and bad everything else.

beer, wine
Abbey Fernandez

There are many snack foods that are labeled healthy just because their macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and caloric intake look good on a label. But this isn't the case. Reading the numbers is important, but it only tells you some of what you need to know. The ingredients tell you the rest. 

So many “healthy” foods out there have good-looking numbers but their ingredients are barely food, nevermind being healthy. Some examples of these are Quest bars (or basically any "bar"), "low-carb" treats, sports drinks, and meal-replacement milkshakes.

Our food choices shouldn't be based on trends.

condiment
Anna Hsu

New health foods are usually influenced by consumer interests, and consumer interests are often influenced by misinformation. People tend to hear small pieces of information on the internet or celebrities and then decide what is healthy based on that. 

For example, people decided that dairy is bad for you and hopped on the soy milk bandwagon. Then, people mistakenly decided that soy is the new enemy and switched to almond milk. Now, we’re seeing almond milks fall from fame. My point is, we can't try to base healthy diets off of trends that change so quickly and that don't have conclusive scientific evidence.

“Healthy” doesn't always mean healthy.

milk
Rachel Hartman

This probably isn't news to anyone, but the words “healthy” or “all natural” don’t mean much on food labels. A classic example of the misuse of the word “healthy” on a food label is KIND bars.

The FDA was actually demanding that KIND remove the word from their label because they were using the term “healthy” when their products didn't actually meet the nutrient requirements of the FDA guidelines for the use of the word. 

Luckily for KIND, the FDA has allowed the company to continue using the word not as a nutrient claim, but as a claim merely to the companies policy. In other words, the word “healthy” doesn't need to refer to the food itself as long as the company claims to be healthy (thanks a lot, FDA).

You get less bang for your buck.

flour, cereal, bread, coffee, chocolate
Malia Budd

Things like whey protein, snack and protein bars, or pre-made smoothies get crazy expensive, but is it really worth what you're paying for? Processed health foods come in very small packaging, so you're really not getting much. On the few occasions where I’ve ignored the growing list of reasons not to to use protein powder and had a protein shake, they never left me feeling full or satisfied like real food does. It's no wonder, since you don't actually absorb all of the protein (talk about literally flushing money down the toilet). 

Processed health foods also don't contain all the nutrients that real foods do, partially because nutrients are lost during processing and partially because of crappy ingredients. If you're going to spend money, it may as well be on food that will help your body perform at its best ability.

chocolate, milk, coffee
Sarah Yanofsky

Of course, there are a handful of companies that do make truly healthy food, but at the end of the day, all companies are there to make a profit and it’s hard to tell which ones care about the well-being of others. If you really want to eat healthy, shifting from processed health foods to real foods is generally the way to go.

Making your own snacks and meals out of real food is more time-consuming than grabbing something from a box, but it’s so worth it. That way, you know exactly what’s in your food and you can make things specifically to suit your dietary needs. All it takes is some effort and understanding, and thats what the Spooniverse is here for.