There's no argument that Trader Joe's is a wonderful place to find unique grocery items, healthier choices, diet-friendly foods, and great prices, but all of that greatness can lead to an illusion. Because Trader Joe's is more conscious of stocking good products, they don't use artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup, making our purchases inherently healthier.

While most foods here are a bit healthier, when it comes to buying snacks, things get blurry. Cookies, candies, chips, and ice cream are unhealthy snacks no matter how you cut it. A snack should provide you with energy or be an occasional method of treating yourself. But no matter how you snack, you should always read the ingredients and nutrition facts. Here are 14 unhealthy Trader Joe's snacks to be cautious of.

1. World's Puffiest Sour Cream & Onion Corn Puffs

Rachael Marks

2.5 cups (28g/1oz): 130 calories, 5g fat (0.5g saturated fat), 200mg sodium, 20g carbs (1g sugar), 2g protein

They might be far from the world's saltiest balls of corn, but they're still packing a lot for a snack that gives you absolutely no nutrients. A snack that can't fill you up is dangerous, especially the salty ones. You could easily end up eating the whole seven servings. And with that, you get some fun ingredients like yeast extract, which contains traces of MSG, and natural flavors (more on those here). 

If you want a snack that will actually fill you up, Thai Lime & Chili Almonds will do just that and retain a very distinct flavorful taste without all of the excessive sodium. If it's not so much about the taste as it is having something to unconsciously pop into your mouth, try out Reduced Guilt Air Popped Popcorn. There is a significant difference in sodium as well as the length of the ingredient list. 

2. Rolled Oats & Peanut Butter Fiberful Granola Bars

chocolate, beef, sweet, meat, bread
Rachael Marks

1 bar (35g/1.2oz): 130 calories, 5g fat (2g saturated fat), 120mg sodium, 20g carbs (9g fiber, 6g sugar), 6g protein, Calcium 10%, Iron 6%

Here's the thing about granola bars and nutrition bars in general: sometimes they're just candy bars in disguise. The fact that ogliofructose (a source of fiber that also acts as a sweetener) is the first ingredient is suspicious. With ingredients like fractionated palm kernel oil, natural flavors, caramel coloring, and several cases of different sugar sources, it certainly starts looking like a candy bar. 

There are much better ways to get a hearty fiber-filled snack. Trader Joe's has a wonderful muesli made with whole grain oats, seeds, fruits, and nuts. It's essentially like a deconstructed granola bar, but you have more control over how much you eat. If you really need a grab and go bar, the Apple + Strawberry or Apple + Mango fruit bars are your best options. Fruits are one of the best sources of nutrients after all, and these bars are literally just fruit. 

3. Fruit Frenzy Bars: Raspberry, Lemon & Strawberry

ice, popsicle
Rachael Marks

1 bar (4 fl oz/ 118 mL): 130 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 31g carbs (1g fiber, 30g sugar), 0g protein, Vitamin C 15%

The amount of sugar in these popsicles is startling. Fruits can provide very high levels of natural sugar, but these ones have tons of added sugar. They also have a fun ingredient called carraggenan (which is controversial in the ever changing world of food additives). 

Popsicles don't have to be an unhealthy snack. Frozen store-bought ones are going to have some weird preservatives in them, so it's always a better (and more fun) choice to make them yourself. Or you can snack on some frozen fruit (don't knock it 'til you've tried it). 

4. Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky

coffee, tea, chocolate
Rachael Marks

1/2 package (28g/1oz): 140 calories, 10g fat (3g saturated fat), 600mg sodium, 6g carbs (6g sugar), 6g protein, Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 4%

600 milligrams of sodium is over 25% of the average daily maximum. It contains xanthan gum, a controversial additive that has displayed actual accounts of adverse side effects in humans. And there's those yummy natural flavors again. Perhaps I can't convince you that preserved meat makes an unhealthy snack, but these piggies are far from your best choice. 

If jerky is your thing, why stray from the basics? It turns out that one of Trader Joe's healthiest option is their Organic Original Beef Jerky. Still want to try something funky? The Natural Sweet and Spicy Buffalo Jerky is on the same level. Yes, they still have a large amount of sodium, but less than half as much as the bacon jerky. Plus, their ingredients list isn't as daunting. 

5. Ghost Pepper Potato Chips

chips, beer, popcorn
Rachael Marks

About 13 chips (28g/1oz): 140 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat, 5g polyunsaturated fat, 1g monounsaturated fat), 170mg sodium, 340mg potassium, 17g carbs (less than 1g fiber, less than 1g sugar), 2g protein, Vitamin A 4%, Vitamin C 10%, Iron 2%

Here's what's spooky about these potato chips: the ingredient list. Potato chips aren't the image of health to begin with, but these spicy chips have yeast extract AND torula yeast, another MSG carrier. That smokey flavor you noticed has been made from a bunch of scientists burning some wood and trapping the smoke to flavor your food. I really wonder who comes up with these things sometimes. 

When it comes to finding a healthy flavored potato chip, your best bet is making your own (its so easy you can even make them in a microwave). Choose from Trader Joe's' seasonings and spices, pick up some potatoes, and make as many chips as you want. Now you don't have to worry about overconsumption!

If you really want to purchase a bag of chips, be a little adventurous and try out a different kind of root veggie with Trader Joe's Parsnip Chips. They're lower in sodium, fat, and carbs, and have no funky flavorings. 

6. Pita Chips with Cinnamon and Sugar

Rachael Marks

1 oz (28g/About 7 chips): 140 calories, 5g fat (0.5 saturated fat, 0.5 polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 monounsaturated fat), 115mg sodium, 20g carbs (1g fiber, 6g sugar), 3g protein, Iron 4%

I'm going to have to tell you something very sad. Pita chips aren't really a healthier alternative to potato chips. In fact, they tend to have a lot less nutritional value. And these guys are coated in sugar and are one of Trader Joe's most sugary chip option. You only get to eat seven of them, which is very unlikely because sugar has addictive properties that can lead to overconsumption. 

If you're really in the mood for something sweet and crunchy, try out the Sweet Plantain Chips. You get 12 instead of seven, no added sugar (since plantains are naturally sweet), no sodium, a concise ingredient list, and a lot less guilt. 

7. Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips

cake, pumpkin, chocolate
Rachael Marks

About 14 Chips (1 oz): 140 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat), 240mg sodium, 14g carbs (1g fiber, 1g sugar), 2g protein, Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 4%, Iron 6%

Trader Joe's tried their hand at making one of the staple unhealthy snacks healthier. Much like their pita and potato chip counterparts, tortilla chips don't pack much in terms of nutritional value. Plus, the flavored variety tend to be highly processed and very salty. These cheese-coated triangles contain traces of MSG and yes, unlike some of their counterparts they do contain actual cheese, but they also contains a lot of natural flavorings. 

Fortunately, Trader Joe's does have some healthy flavored tortilla options with some great nutritional value. The Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips and the Soy & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips both have a lot less sodium and zero MSG or natural flavoring. Looking for a more traditional tortilla chip? Don't let the color fool you, the Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips are a great platform for salsa (and once again, they have less salt and better ingredients).  

8. Scandinavian Swimmers

Amelia Crabtree

9 pieces (42g): 160 calories, 0g fat, 25mg sodium, 39g carbs (27g sugar)

I don't know about you, but these guys seem a little fishy to me. When I compared them to the assorted Swedish Fish nutrition facts I was surprised to find that there wasn't much of a difference. A little less sodium, a few more calories, and one gram less of carbs. Plus, they shared a lot of similar bad ingredients with the exception of artificial flavors and coloring, which I guess is a step in the right direction. These sea creatures are still highly processed gummies, and when it comes down to it, the most substantial gummies you can get are in the pharmacy section. 

But fear not! There is something to satisfy your craving for something sweet and chewy, and it's name is dried fruit. Don't laugh, dried apricots in particular have a very similar texture and naturally sweet taste to gummies. Trader Joe's is full of a wonderful variety of dried fruits, but make sure that you pick up the unsweetened kind (fruit is already sweet, no need to add sugar). 

9. Dark Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels

chicken, chocolate
Madison Mordoh

8 pieces (40g): 200 calories, 10g fat (6g saturated fat), 190mg sodium, 26g carbs (2g fiber, 12g sugar), 3g protein

Pretzels don't typically have a lot of nutritional value and tend to just be a vehicle for large amounts of sodium. Just like chips and corn puffs, they are an unhealthy snack by their very nature. And they're coated in chocolate, so essentially they're cookies. These little guys have a crazy amount of sugar, corn syrup, and a high amount of saturated fat. But don't worry, you still have some sweet options. 

If you want a sugary treat that will give you a more natural energy boost, Trader Joe's Candied Pecans are so delicious you'll forget you're snacking on nuts. Looking more for that chocolatey taste? The Chocolate Covered Edamame might sound weird, but just think about it this way. What sounds healthier, chocolate-covered beans or chocolate-covered carbs?

10. Mac & Cheese Bites

sweet, vegetable, potato
Rachael Marks

3 bites (85g/3oz): 210 calories, 12g fat (7g saturated fat), 430mg sodium, 15g carbs (1g fiber, 1g sugar), 10g protein, Vitamin A 6%, Calcium 20%, Iron 4%

Okay, it's mac and cheese covered in carbs, put into snackable bite size pieces. There really was no way to make this a healthy option. As expected from a cheesy, fried treat, the sodium level is crazy. And it gets crazier. Our good friends carrageenan, xanthan gum, and natural flavors have found their way into these cheesy balls of salty carbs. 

If you absolutely must have one of the classic fried unhealthy snacks, your best bet are the Trader Joe's Potato Tots, but you can do better than that. You can have a cheesy snack that will still bring on the nostalgia—string cheese. Trader Joe's has such a great variety, just make sure to look for ones with lower sodium and the most basic ingredients. They're yummy, easy, and even fun to eat (and peeling them actually encourages mindful eating). 

11. Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter

tea, cream, dairy product, coffee, milk
Annie Pinto

2 tbsp (37g): 210 calories, 14g fat (3.5g trans fat), 95mg sodium, 20g carbs (<1g fiber, 17g sugar), 1g protein, Calcium 2%, 

I know that I'm going to break some hearts with this one, but you kind of had to have seen it coming. The words cookie and butter don't really scream health. This one specifically is not binge session material. What really struck me was that unlike the other cookie butters, the Cookies & Creme serving size is 2 tablespoons instead of one. So I did some math and it turns out that even if you try to halve the nutrition facts, it's still substantially worse than its counterparts. 

I know that you want cookie butter, but Trader Joe's has a wonderful assortment of nut butters that make a great snack on veggies, fruit, or whole grain toast. If you absolutely must have a cookie butter, do yourself a favor and stick to the originals or make your own with this healthier recipe

12. PB&J Milk Chocolate Bar

wine, chocolate, coffee
Isabelle Crary

1 bar (50g): 280 calories, 19g fat (9g saturated fat), 60mg sodium, 23g carbs (2g fiber, 20g sugar), 5g protein, Calcium 6%, Iron 10%

Yes, a candy bar is a very unhealthy snack (especially ones with funky flavors). In the grand tradition of most candy bars, this one contains corn syrup and high levels of saturated fat, higher than Butterfingers and most of the classics. Unlike some of their other chocolate bars that advise against eating the whole bar, this one says to eat the whole thing. That's a lot of sugar!

If you really really need some chocolate (or are a firm believer in chocolate health benefits) go for the 100 Calorie Dark Chocolate Bars. They are still high in sugar and sat fat, but at a much lower amount and with better ingredients. 

13. Spizzico di Pizza

Rachael Marks

6 mini pizzas (135g): 320 calories, 14g fat (5g saturated fat), 740mg sodium, 33g carbs (2g fiber, 3g sugar), 14g protein, Vitamin A 8%, Calcium 30%, Vitamin C 8%, Iron 10%

Is pizza a snack or is pizza a meal? I don't know, but these are the kinds of bites you'd expect to find at a Superbowl party, so I'm going to treat them as a snack. And there is nothing nutritious behind popping six mini pizzas. Maybe they do have less sodium than their larger counterparts, but you're still eating over 30% of the average daily value.

You're also indulging in another lovely controversial additive called DATEM. But we're not finished because there's also xanthan gum and calcium chloride, which makes it taste even saltier without bringing up the sodium toll.

After adding some new sciencey-sounding words to your vocabulary, its time to find a better option. Unfortunately, I can't give you a pizza option (I really tried to find a better one, but they were all quite alarming). Instead, buy their Trader Giotto's Rosemary Italian Crackers and top it with some Trader Giotto's Bruschetta. You've just upgraded from Superbowl snacking to classy snacking. Nice!

14. Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches

cake, cookie, chocolate
Lacey Pike

1 sandwich (148mL): 440 calories, 21g fat (12g saturated fat), 240mg sodium, 60g carbs (2g fiber, 42g sugar), 5g protein, Vitamin A 8%, Calcium 10%, Iron 15%

I think these shocked me more than all of the other items collectively. Trader Joe's has managed to produce one of the worst ice cream sandwiches you can buy. These have more calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, and sugar than the M&M’s Ice Cream Sandwich. It has the benefit of a better list of ingredients but it still contains some funky preservatives. If you desperately need to try one bring a friend (or two) to share.

In the frozen food section, preservatives make it easy to pick out an unhealthy snack. The best frozen treat is the Gone Bananas chocolate-covered bananas. If you really really need a creamy frozen treat, go for the Mango & Cream Bars. Not only do they have a relatively clean ingredient list, water and mangoes are the first two ingredients. And mangoes are super sweet by design. 

You may not be able to ever truly find a healthy choice for all your cravings, but you can always still indulge and make smart choices. What makes an unhealthy snack an unhealthy snack is truly up to you.