8 “HEALTHY” SNACKS THAT ARE MORE FATTENING THAN A TWINKIE

When I think of the most decadent, fattening food I can eat, my mind doesn’t go to the high-priced, frou frou chocolate éclair or the rich and creamy New York cheesecake. No, I think more along the lines of pure sugar, cream, and processed chemical goodness that comes in a pretty plastic wrapper: the all-American Twinkie.

I love those little rolls of heaven, but they definitely don’t love me. That’s because just one Twinkie has a whopping 18 grams of sugar, which knocks out nearly 100 percent of my daily sugar quota in one fell swoop. So I steer clear of my favorite dessert and reach for healthier foods instead. If I’m craving something sweet after lunch, I make a fro-yo run; if I’m still feeling hungry after dinner, I have a bowl of cereal.

But here’s the thing: Karen Ansel, MS, RD, co-author of “The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life,” says some of the “healthy” picks at your grocery store have more sugar than your off-limits desserts. In fact, things like whole wheat bread, yogurt, and granola have more grams of sugar than the ubiquitous Twinkie.

Skip ahead to see the 8 fattening foods that have more sugar than a Twinkie here.

And the real danger comes not just because we eat these fattening foods, but because we think they’re healthy, says Ansel. “Everything is OK in moderation,” she says. But of course, when we think a food is good for us, we tend to snack with abandon. The result? An ever-expanding waistline.

While the “healthy” daily amount of sugar is up for hot debate right now (the World Health Organization says added sugar should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake; the American Heart Association says it should only make up 4 percent), all experts agree we’re consuming too much of the white stuff. The AHA says added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar found in sodas, desserts, and other processed foods are responsible for Americans’ overall increase in calorie consumption and the subsequent rise in obesity.

Over the past 30 years, Americans have consumed an average of 150 to 300 more calories per day than we used to — and we haven’t increased our physical activity. And experts say most of these extra cals are coming from added sugars. It’s no wonder more than two-thirds of us are battling obesity.

To stay in your skinny jeans, watch out for these “healthy” (read: high-sugar and highly fattening) foods.

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Spaghetti sauce :

There’s a reason why that jar of Prego can taste as good as a home-cooked sauce from a nonna’s kitchen: It’s got sugar in it. Loads of it. To be precise, just 1/2 cup of Prego Fresh Mushroom Italian Sauce has 11 g of sugar — the same amount that’s in a glazed Krispy Kreme donut.

Eat this instead:

If you read labels and compare brands, it is possible to find a sauce with no added sugar. Another alternative is to make your own spaghetti sauce from chopped canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and a little dried basil.

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Yogurt :

Yogurt might seem like the ultimate health food, but you’d be surprised by how some flavors, like the Key Lime Pie-flavored Yoplait, can be as sugar-loaded as an actual slice of pie. The Yoplait has 29 g of sugar — that’s the equivalent of 1 1/2 Twinkies! However, Ansel says, “It’s worth noting that about 12 g [of sugar] is from lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. Naturally occurring sugars like this aren’t nearly as much of a concern as added sugars because they come packaged with a bundle of nutrients. What you really want to watch out for is added sugars.” And yogurt — especially those with fruit on the bottom — is typically loaded with added sugars.

Unfortunately, Ansel says food manufacturers aren’t required to separate natural sugars from added sugars on the nutrition facts panel. The only way to know is to check the ingredient list. Look for common added sugar ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, glucose, honey, or evaporated cane juice.

Eat this instead: Sweeten plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some fresh berries or sliced bananas.

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Smoothies :

When I was in college, I would treat myself to a 16-oz. White Gummy Bear at Jamba Juice. The best part about it was that it felt like I was slurping a dessert but thought I was getting all kinds of healthy fruits. But in this particular smoothie, there’s sugar and four scoops of ice cream that get mixed in with the fruit, which ultimately amount to 540 calories and, depending on the size, anywhere from 40 to 110 g of sugar.

Eat this instead: Make your own smoothies at home, says Joy Dubost, American Dietetic Association Spokesperson, PhD, RD, CSSD. You’ll get all the nutrients of the fruits without the added sugar.

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Sports drinks :

Even if it’s labeled vitamin water, an energy drink, or a sports drink, it can still be loaded with empty, sugar-filled calories. For example, sports drinks like Gatorade have 28 g of sugar per 20-ounce bottle. Dubost says that if you want to cut calories from your diet, skipping sugary beverages is an easy way to do it.

“I think there’s a place for sports drinks, but it’s for those who are extremely active and have sweated out their nutrients,” she says. “If you’re working out for more than an hour a day, then you can have a sports drink to replenish what you’ve lost,” says Dubost.

Drink this instead: Water. I know it’s not as flashy as a flavored drink, but I also know those empty grams of sugar and calories are not worth it. And no, water does not include vitamin water. A 20-ounce Glaceau Vitamin Water has 32 g of sugar. But what about the vitamins? If you have a well-balanced diet, you don’t need your vitamins to come from a bottle, says Dubost.

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Granola bars :

When you’re on a health kick and decide to spend your Saturday morning hiking instead of sleeping in, the No. 1 snack that gets tossed into your backpack is a granola bar, right? Sitting on top of that mountain with the sun shining and sweat beading off your face gets even better when you bite into that satisfying snack. Yet that “healthy” bar isn’t as good for you as you might think.

“Essentially, granola bars are really healthy-sounding cookies,” says Ansel. An Apricot-flavored Clif Bar has 24 g of sugar; a Twinkie would’ve tasted better and has 4 grams less sugar.

Eat this instead: Reach for a graham cracker with some all natural peanut butter.

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Cereal :

OK, we already know there’s sugar in cereals like Froot Loops and chocolate-flavored Cocoa Puffs, but what about the healthier options like Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart Toasted Oat? Well turns out even a 1 1/4 cup of Kellogg’s has 17 g of sugar, and my personal favorite — Special K Fruit & Yogurt — has about the same amount of sugar, which puts both on par with a Twinkie. “When cereals are made from whole grains, we assume they’re made with other wholesome ingredients, too, but that’s not always the case,” says Ansel.

Eat this instead: To avoid the sugar in cereal, “your best bet is to go for the most unprocessed cereal possible,” such as a bowl of whole oats or bran flakes. “If you want a little sweetness add some fresh fruit,” says Ansel.

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Frozen yogurt :

Touted as the healthier option to other frozen desserts, fro-yo has exploded in the last few years. (Pinkberry, Menchies, and YogurtLand, anyone?) But dieticians agree we should think twice about this sweet treat.

Why? “You walk in and pour as much yogurt as you want into a cup, before you pile on the toppings,” says Dubost. “By the time you’re at the register, you’re up to the caloric value of a meal.”

Here’s the frozen yogurt nutrition breakdown: One Pinkberry medium-sized cup of the original tart flavor gives you 46 g of sugar — 46! Throw on some yogurt chips and you’re adding another 8 g of sugar. Assuming you opted for just the yogurt chips instead of the complimentary three toppings, you’ve just consumed 54 g of sugar — or about three Twinkies worth of the sweet stuff.

Eat this instead: “Frankly, there are low-sugar and low-fat ice creams in the grocery store that have less calories and sugar than some of these frozen yogurts,” says Dubost. Try Dreyer’s Slow Churned No Sugar Added Ice Cream.

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Reduced fat peanut:

butter Peanut butter caught some flak for having 25 percent of your recommended daily intake of fat in just 2 tablespoons, so many peanut butter companies came out with reduced fat options. But while they may boast “25 percent less fat than regular peanut butter,” you will definitely not be “spreading some on without the guilt” like the Skippy’s Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter tagline claims.

“When manufacturers remove the fat from their foods, they need to put something else in to pump up the flavor — and that something is often sugar,” says Ansel. “Many brands have up to a teaspoon of sugar in a 2 tablespoon serving.” Skippy’s 25 percent less fat option has 4 g of sugar in 2 tablespoons — that’s double the amount of the original, “fattening” variety. So, while we admit this is less than the amount of sugar in a Twinkie, it’s still astounding.

Eat this instead: Rather than reduced fat peanut butter, try almond butter. While it has a comparable amount of calories, they’re substantiated with extra doses of iron, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and vitamin E. Almond butter also has about half of the saturated fats than peanut butter.

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7 Snacks That Taste Fatty but Keep You Skinny
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