As far back as we can remember, it’s been etched in your head: three meals a day! Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be more than enough to get all the calories we need. So why does snacking between meals come so naturally to us?
In short, the “three meals a day” rule is a byproduct of civilization and society, not our body’s needs. Before Christopher Columbus brought all the wonders (and diseases) of Europe to the new world, Native Americans generally ate whenever they were hungry.
“The native tribes’ meal times were less rigid…the Europeans took this as ‘proof that the natives were uncivilized,'” Abigail Carroll, author of the book Three Squares: The invention of the American mealTold National exam. “Civilized people ate properly and proportioned their food, thus differentiating themselves from the animal kingdom, where grazing is the norm.”
Fast forward to today, and modern medicine has largely debunked the idea that three meals a day are ideal. According Cornell University Department of Health, it’s best to fuel your day with meals and snacks. In other words, don’t go more than three to four hours at a time without eating.
For the most part, Americans don’t need the extra incentive to keep snacking. A survey tells us that the average US citizen will spend nearly $30,000 on snacks in their lifetime! Meanwhile, a similar poll reports that nearly half of Americans regularly stash treats in their homes to snack on secretly.
Eating between meals, in a vacuum, is not necessarily negative. Snacking only becomes a real dietary problem if we choose to snack on the wrong foods. There’s certainly no shortage of options waiting for shoppers in the snack aisle, so which items should you avoid?
“Franken snacks as I like to call them, food with no (or far) best before date, no readable ingredients, and fully engineered,” says Whitney Stuart, RDN.
Looking for more specific grocery list advice? You’re lucky! We’ve put together a list of the worst snack brands you should stay far, far away from.
And don’t miss 4 meat companies with the worst food-grade practices.
You probably already know that Nutella isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for a healthy snack. A few years ago, an image showing the ridiculous amounts of sugar in a jar of Nutella went viral, and for good reason. The sugar levels in this hazelnut-chocolate spread are truly obscene. A single 13-ounce jar contains 210 grams of sugar.
What you might not know, however, is that once upon a time Nutella actually tried to market itself as a “health food” and ended up being sued for it. This ad touts Nutella as a convenient, healthy option for busy families looking for a quick breakfast on hectic mornings. The ad talks about Nutella’s “simple, quality ingredients” like skim milk and a hint of cocoa, but doesn’t mention anything about sugar.
The public felt so misled by this ad that a class action lawsuit was filed and won against Ferrero USA, the maker of Nutella. At the time (2014), Nutella also pledged to review its advertising practices and provide better nutritional information on its labels.
But wait, there’s more: another of Nutella’s main ingredients, palm oil, has been named as a probable carcinogen in recent years.
It’s also worth keeping this in mind: Ferrero uses around a quarter of the world’s hazelnut supply to produce Nutella, which is undoubtedly a powerful contributor to the global hazelnut shortage.
Twinkies have been an iconic American snack for nearly a century! Here’s a Twinkie fact, though, that may make you lose your appetite. When Twinkies were first invented in 1930, they had a very short lifespan of only two days. Any longer, and ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter go bad.
Today’s Twinkies, however, have an astonishing 45 day lifespan. While having a month and a half to eat a box of Twinkies might be handy, one can’t help but wonder what’s changed since 1930. In a nutshell: artificial ingredients, colors and preservatives.
Along with tons of sugar, here are some of the ingredients you ingest every time you swallow a Twinkie: cellulose gum, polysorbate 60, hydrogenated oils, and the artificial colors yellow 5 and red 40.
Yellow 5 is linked to hyperactivity in children, while red 40 and polysorbate 60 have shown carcinogenic tendencies.
It should also be mentioned that in the 1990s, two students decided to conduct a series of tests on Twinkies. Dubbed the TWINKIES project, this research revealed that Twinkies (at least in 1995) are only flammable when doused with rubbing alcohol, resistant to being dropped from a sixth-story window, and even immune to 110-volt electrical. . Not quite natural.
It doesn’t get much bigger than Frito-Lay. From Fritos and Cheetos to classic Doritos and Lays, the Frito-Lay brand is a snack powerhouse. Unfortunately, with great potency also comes a lot of sketchy ingredients, apparently.
“Frito Lay is one of the biggest franken-snack offenders, using inflammatory oils, like soybean oil, in the vast majority of his foods,” Stuart says.
It’s true, many Frito-Lay products contain soybean oil. Already linked to obesity and diabetes, recent preliminary research published in the scientific journal Endocrinology also suggests that soybean oil may actually trigger genetic changes in the brain and influence neurological conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to dementia. These results are far from conclusive, but no less appetizing.
Frito-Lay recently made headlines for another troubling issue: the way the company treats its workers. The summer of 2021 saw hundreds of workers at a Kansas Frito-Lay plant go on strike for weeks over poor working conditions and ridiculously long hours.
Specifically, the picketers demanded an end to their suicide changes. Union leaders claimed that many factory workers were forced to work 84 hours a week due to compulsory and forced overtime. One employee even claimed to have seen co-workers exit the factory on stretchers on more than one occasion.
Frito-Lay claimed the claims were “grossly exaggerated”, but the strike dragged on until workers secured a 4% pay rise and at least one guaranteed day off a week.
One of Frito-Lay’s biggest sub-brands is Doritos, and this chip deserves its own entry on this list.
Doritos is estimated to bring Frito-Lay a staggering $1.5 billion in annual sales in the United States. So why are these chips constantly flying off the grocery store shelves?
Experts believe that Doritos are intentionally designed to be as addictive as possible, enticing our taste buds just enough to make us crave for more without ever truly satisfying our hunger. Even so, that’s far from the only reason to steer clear of these chips.
“Doritos are not only made with nutritionally poor ingredients, but with additives of concern,” says nutritionist Lisa Richards, author of The Candida diet. “They’re fried in inflammatory omega-6 oils that are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and a wide variety of chronic diseases.”
“Doritos contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a controversial additive placed in many snacks to improve flavor, shelf life and taste in some cases. It is thought to be linked to health issues and some people have an intolerance to MSG” She adds.
Known for their offbeat marketing campaigns and distinctive bright red and yellow packaging, Slim Jims are a snack staple at grocery stores and gas stations across the country. Officially, the brand offers “meat sticks and jerky snacks”, but have you ever wondered what you’re actually eating when you crave a Slim Jim?
Here are some of the ingredients: beef, mechanically separated chicken (yum!), sodium nitrite and hydrolyzed soy. While it’s hard to imagine a less appetizing phrase than “mechanically separated chicken,” sodium nitrite is directly associated with colorectal cancer.
It’s encouraging that Slim Jims contain real beef, but according to Wired, these meat sticks are made from very poor quality beef from older cows. Slim Jims have the savory umami flavor that is synonymous with meat. But, it’s a pseudo-version of umami, produced by hydrolyzed soy – not any of the added meats found in the final product.
Maybe Is it bad for you summed up this snack best: “If you only have Slim Jims to eat and you’re miles from civilization, eat one to stay alive. Otherwise, it should be avoided altogether.”