The information for this article was compiled by Kaamilah Mitchell.

Have we mentioned that nothing beats fresh fruit or vegetables for a healthy snack? But plenty of packaged snacks that promise “real” veggies offer little of them. And companies are still using fruit, protein, beans, and whole-grain claims to catch your eye. Here are six snacks that only look eight that really are.

Snacks that look good for you

Starch stalks

“Food should be tasty & nutritious,” says Real Food From the Ground Up Sea Salt Cauliflower Stalks. “Made with real veggies.”

From cauliflower “rice” to cauliflower pizza crust, most cauli-fied versions of starchy foods do have fewer refined carbs than the originals.

But an ounce of Cauliflower Stalks has about as many calories and carbs as an ounce of Funyuns, which are made of cornmeal. Ditto for fiber and protein.

How can that be? The “cauliflower” stalks have more cassava (a starchy tuber) and oil than cauliflower. They also have more salt than “vegetable blend” (spinach, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, beets, and shiitakes).

That’s “real food”?

TIP: “Made with” often means “made with very little.”

Morning cookie

“belVita Soft Filled Soft Baked Biscuits are a tasty, nutritious combination of wholesome baked grains, paired with a flavorful filling to provide a delicious morning snack,” says the box.

Nutritious? Wholesome? The FDA has never defined those claims, so they mean pretty much whatever the company decides.

Yes, each 50-gram cookie has “9g whole grain,” but the first ingredient is “wheat flour” (code for white flour). And more sugar than “strawberry puree concentrate” in the filling means 10 grams of added sugar (a fifth of a day’s worth). So much for “nutritious.”

TIP: The perfect morning snack? A piece of fruit.

Bacon bar?

“Unleash your inner animal with a bar designed as nature intended!” urges the Bison Uncured Bacon + Cranberry Bar, which is made by EPIC, a startup that General Mills bought in 2016.

It’s 130 calories’ worth of dried bison, cranberries sweetened with apple juice concentrate (aka added sugar), and bacon that’s “uncured”…that is, except for the nitrates and nitrites in its “celery powder and sea salt”.

It doesn’t matter where those nitrates and nitrites come from. It’s still a slab of salty processed meat. The Bison bar has 320 milligrams of sodium, but others like the Uncured Bacon Pork + Maple or Venison Sea Salt + Pepper hit roughly 600 to 800 mg—a quarter to a third of a day’s worth.

TIP: Try an EPIC Performance Bar, RXBAR, or Lärabar Protein. All use egg white or pea protein, dried fruit, and nuts.


“Changing snacking for the better, one chickpea at a time,” says Hippeas about its vegan Nacho Vibes Organic Chickpea Puffs. “Kick back and take it easy ‘cuz these are nacho average puffs.”

The front of the bag features an image of a whole chickpea. On the inside? Hippeas blends chickpea flour with nutrient-poor rice flour and tapioca starch, tosses in “pea hull fiber,” then puffs everything into a Cheetoslike shape.

That’s sure nacho average chickpea.

TIP: Trying to eat more beans? You’re better off with whole legumes than puffed bean-plus-rice flour that’s easy to eat because it dissolves quickly in your mouth. A steady diet of ultraprocessed foods that boost your eating speed may lead to weight gain over time.

Playing chicken

“We ditched the potato and replaced it with real chicken,” says Wilde Brand about its Thin & Crispy Himalayan Pink Salt Chicken Chips.

So the chips are just…chicken? Nope.

Each 1 oz. serving has enough tapioca flour to add 10 grams of carbs. That’s not much less than the same-size serving of Lay’s potato chips (15 grams of carbs, and no more calories). What’s more, all that flour crowds out some chicken. A serving of chicken chips has 170 calories and 7 grams of protein; 170 calories’ worth of real chicken breast has 34 grams of protein.

TIP: Looking for more protein? Starch-heavy chips aren’t the answer.

Off the veggie path

“Hungry for a new adventure?” asks Off the Eaten Path Veggie Crisps. “Try veggie crisps—deliciously different from chips. You’ll discover a tasty new take on real veggies!”

Yet Frito-Lay adds more rice flour and oil than green peas, yellow peas, or black beans. A “new take”? Hardly. Companies have used a touch of veggies to give their chips a health halo for years.

TIP: Want a snack that’s more nutrient-dense—and less calorie-dense—than chips? Pick up a real veggie, not a crisp, stalk, or puff.

Snacks that are good for you

A cut above

You can’t beat sliced raw vegetables.

For starters, there’s that satisfying crunch.

As for calories, crudités like bell pepper strips, baby carrots, mini tomatoes, cauliflower florets, and sliced cucumbers hit the sweet spot: just 20 to 50 per cup.

That leaves plenty of room for a few spoonfuls of tzatziki, hummus, etc.


Take a dip

Don’t get us wrong. We love snacking on raw veggies dipped in classic, garlic, or red pepper hummus.

But if you want to branch out, try tzatziki.

The cucumber-garlic-dill dip is cool, creamy, herby, and made from yogurt. And since it’s got roughly half the calories of hummus, you can feel free to double dip.

A good bet: Cedar’s Cucumber Garlic Dill Tzatziki, which has 35 calories in two level tablespoons. Cava, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s tzatzikis are similar.

Bonus: A dollop of tzatziki can jazz up lentils, chicken, white fish, falafel, or brown rice.

Going nuts

Nuts pack healthy fats plus nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E into one tempting plant-based bite.

It’s just awfully easy to lose track of how many bites you’ve taken. (Expect about 100 calories in 14 almonds.)

Solution: Pre-portion your nuts into reusable containers or buy single-serve pouches. Emerald's scrumptious Cocoa Roast Almonds are lightly dusted with cocoa and stevia and have a mere 1 gram of added sugar per pouch.

Better beans

The Good Bean Sea Salt Crispy Favas + Peas beats bean puffs, hands down. They’re roasted whole beans and peas (plus oil and salt), not bean flour diluted with refined flours and starches.

Other good whole-bean snacks: Biena (chickpeas), Enlightened (“broad beans,” aka favas), and David Energy-Packed Mix (chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds).

Just skip the honey or chocolate chickpeas from Biena and The Good Bean. Who needs sugar-coated beans?

Thin win

A go-to 100% whole-grain cracker: Triscuits. They’re mostly shredded wheat plus a touch of oil and salt.

If only it took more than 6 crackers to snack your way through a (120-calorie) serving. Oh wait. It can!

How do 14 Triscuit Thin Crisps sound? Or 26 petite Triscuit Minis?

The thins are perfect for topping. Try sliced cucumber or tomato atop a schmear of hummus or labneh (tangy yogurt cheese).

Can’t beet ‘em

Fresh veggies have fewer calories per bite than dried. But if you’re looking for chips, try Rhythm Organic Sea Salt Beet Chips. They’re “dried not fried,” so they taste like, well, beets.

Each 1½ oz. bag packs enough sliced beets (the main ingredient, plus salt and a little oil) to deliver a quarter of a day’s fiber and about 15 percent of a day’s potassium, all for only 160 calories. Sweet!

Skyr up

Plain Fage Total 0% Milkfat Greek Yogurt is a creamy, near-perfect snack. Each 6 oz. container has no added sugar and 18 grams of protein for just 90 calories. It’s a tangy match for fresh fruits like blueberries or strawberries.

Want more sweetness? That’s where Icelandic Provisions comes in. Each 5.3 oz. tub of the company’s Traditional Skyr comes in Nordic flavors like Blueberry Bilberry and Strawberry Lingonberry, with all the velvety texture and high protein (15 grams) of greek yogurt. What’s more, none top 6 or 7 grams of added sugar (and 130 to 150 calories).

Three other flavored yogurts that also keep the added sugar in check: Siggi’s 0% or 2% Icelandic Skyr and Chobani Less Sugar Greek Yogurt.

Oil change

Popcorn has plenty of pluses. It’s whole grain and high volume, so you can put away a few cups’ worth for just 100 to 200 calories.

Microwave popcorn’s problem: palm oil. Big brands like Pop Secret use the saturated-fat-rich oil because it stays solid on supermarket shelves.

But Quinn Microwave Popcorn comes with packets of liquid oil (and seasoning) to toss in after popping. So palm oil is out and healthier, largely unsaturated sunflower oil is in.

“Microwave popcorn reimagined”? Quinn ain’t kiddin’.

Photos: Pixel-Shot/, Green Pack Snacks, Inc. (Hippeas), pinkyone/ (vegetables), Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, Inc. (tzatziki), Triscuit (Thin Crisps), Rhythm Superfoods (beet chips), Icelandic Provisions (yogurt), Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI (all others).