When you’re cramming for that midterm or pulling an all-nighter for an essay, there’s nothing like a good snack to keep you going. If you’ve ever wondered how the nutritional profiles of your favourite snack foods compare, here’s a summary of some of the best and worst choices.
Though trail mix can be high in calories (as many as 350 calories in a half-cup), it is also high in nutrients such as protein, B-vitamins, magnesium, and iron. Not to mention, it is the most satiating of all the foods on this list. Of course, depending on the blend of ingredients, trail mix can vary greatly. If you’re making it yourself, don’t be overly generous with dried fruit. Avoid candy or chocolate-based ingredients, and be sure to include as many different kinds of seeds and nuts as possible.
When it comes to crackers, there is great diversity among the different brands and types of crackers that you can buy. For roughly 60 calories and under 130mg of sodium, you could consume seven thin wheat crackers, or three melba toasts. Or, for around 90 calories, you could consume seven soda crackers, or three graham crackers (with 100 and 234mg of sodium, respectively). On the slightly higher end, seven “Ritz”-style crackers contain about 114 calories and 200mg of sodium. Though they’re starting to verge on being nutritional no-nos, these crackers are still a better option than some other popular snack choices.
When it’s not soaked in butter, popcorn is one of the best snacks out there. Not only is it a great low-calorie choice (an entire cup contains only 32 calories — which means you could burn it off after only three minutes of jogging!), it also contains modest amounts of fiber, meaning it will keep you full for longer. Oil-popped popcorn contains about twice as many calories, but it is still better than many other snack choices. That said, it’s best to steer clear of caramel-covered popcorn, which contains approximately five times more calories that regular air-popped popcorn.
Pretzels seem like they’re healthy, but consuming only seven will supply you with 160 calories, and over 550 mg of sodium. This is almost a third of the ideal amount of sodium that you should consume daily, making pretzels a less desirable snack.
If you compare an equal mass of potato chips, dried-potato chips (such as Pringles), corn-based puffs (such as Cheesies), and tortilla chips, there is no huge difference in total calories among these snack choices. For about 28 grams (the standard serving size, equaling approximately ten chips) of any of these choices, you’re looking at anywhere from 140 to 160 calories. Nevertheless, some choices are still better than others. In most cases, tortilla chips are the best choice. They contain the fewest calories, and significantly less sodium (79mg) compared to dried-potato chips (109mg), potato chips (147mg), and corn-based puffs (255mg).
So when it comes to snacking, be wise about your choices. If you’re snacking because you’re truly hungry, make sure you go for popcorn or trail mix because these snacks will fill you up without filling you out. If you’re looking for a tasty treat, be mindful of the volume you consume because the calories and salt add up quickly.