Processed Snacks and Desserts: What the Hell, Let’s Have Some!

Processed Snacks and Desserts: What the Hell, Let’s Have Some!
 via flickr

By Crabby McSlacker

Are you one of those people who eats only healthy whole foods, having absolutely no desire to consume tasty and convenient items created in some huge factory somewhere, packaged up and shipped thousands of miles away to your very own neighborhood grocery store?

Well, congratulations!

Enjoy that little cute little plate of fresh cut veggies and hummus. Savor that teeny-tiny handful of raw nuts. Arrange those fresh apple slices into a Pinterest-ready photo broadcasting your virtue.

Me? Sometimes I buy processed stuff in boxes and bags and cartons and resealable pouches.

My meals are generally pretty damn healthy, and there are whole food snacks I’ll eat too. (Hello, nuts and fruit and a few select veggies). But if I don’t have a few good indulgence foods on hand, things I truly love… then I’ll soon end up on the Dark Side of the Snacking Street, on the Wrong Side of the Right Track. You know that neighborhood, right? It’s where the nachos and the bakery sheet cakes and pepperoni pizza and the Ben & Jerry’s all live.

And try as I might, I just can’t love a fucking carrot stick no matter what I dip it into.

Yet so many snacks and desserts that are advertised as “healthy” are no such thing. If I weren’t an obsessive nutcase, I might not ever have found my current favorites among all the zillions of faux-healthy offerings crowding the grocery store shelves.

So what do I eat?

(Note: No one is paying me anything or offering me anything free for this post. I’m done with that, having discovered that $7 worth of free snack foods is not worth all the angst and procrastination and misery that comes with actually having to write a review on command. These are just things I like, many of which I’ve mentioned before).

My Criteria for Healthy Snacks

Everyone’s dietary preferences and nutritional issues are different. What may be my perfect snack or dessert may be your nightmare and vice versa.

via Livia Novakova

I favor snacks that are relatively low in sugar. But these may include super-sweet treats that got that way by means of “natural” fake sugars (i.e., stevia, monkfruit, erythritol etc).  I’m currently trying to cut back on the splenda/aspartame/saccharine kind of fake sugar. I’m not totally convinced they’re as terrible as people say, but I’m trying to go with the natural ones until some new study comes along saying the natural ones cause eyeball cancer or toxic shock or narcoleplsy or webbed toes or some other nasty problem.  

Anyway I also I like my snacks to contain something besides empty carbs and fats, like fiber or protein or virtuous phytochemicals. And they have to taste good.

And, as unhip as this may sound, I still care about calories.  I like an ample serving size, and can easily eat a day’s worth of calories in one quick sitting of, say, trail mix, even the kind with no chocolate in it. If you are not a gluttonous pig like I am this may be less of a concern.

photo: madaise

But rather than embark on a scholarly discussion of all the ingredients on the labels and their advantages and disadvantages, how about instead I just put up some shitty camera-phone photos of some of the crap I have around the house that makes me happy?

My current favorite dessert:

Note: they try very hard to persuade you to eat the whole pint. Do I need to tell you that this is not necessary? On the other hand, you sure as hell don’t have to stick to the mythical 1/2 cup serving size that ice cream claims to come in. Who eats just a half cup of ice cream??

This is a reliable dessert stand-by too:

The nice thing about this dark chocolate bar is that it’s a respectable 72% cocoa, yet does not taste punitively bitter like so many dark chocolates do. The sea salt is lovely too.
Oh, and these cinnamon apple chips are awesome!  Because that’s all they are: cinnamon and apples. But they’re crunchy and SO much more fun than eating an apple.
The downside: it’s easy to eat too many of ’em in a way that it’s not so easy to eat too many apples.

These Quest bars are very low in sugar, have a boatload of fiber and protein, and taste (to me) quite delicious. Downside: a little splenda in there with the other more natural sweeteners, but screw it. They have other flavors without the splenda but I don’t like ’em as much.

This next fave from TJ’s comes in very handy for travel, especially in places where non-cheeseburger protein sources are hard to come by:

And vegetables that kinda/sorta resemble snack chips you’d eat on purpose? WIN!!! The downside is in the process of turning broccoli into something tasty, they use a hefty amount of oil and thus the calorie count is way high.

These kale chips are not quite as oily as the broccoli, and generally very tasty.  But TJ’s suppliers seem to vary, sometimes these taste a little off if you get a bad bag. But 90% of the time they’re great, and much cheaper than the insanely pricey kind they stock in most natural food stores.

And hey, did you catch the news that popcorn is now good for you? It’s loaded with disease-fighting polyphenols. Who knew? But the catch is, plain popcorn sucks and most things you put on it to make it tasty turn it into junk.

But somehow this brand makes a couple of very low cal varieties with just the minimum amount of Stuff In It that WAY BETTER than all the other low calorie popcorn brands. It pisses me off whenever I can’t find it on the grocery store shelves because it’s been shoved out of the way by the other popcorns, or the store only stocks the high calorie flavors with way more sugar and fat than you need. These are great and if you can eat a TON without feeling too guilty.

Oh, and these are good on salads if you want something crunchy that’s not quite as deliciously evil as a buttery crouton:

Are these the only processed foods I eat? Um, well no, there are a couple of completely indefensible items I won’t even admit to here, but I eat them sparingly. These are my mainstays.

How about you guys, do you completely avoid packaged processed convenience foods? If not, what are your faves?



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