To keep blood sugar levels stable, metabolism running, and weight loss on track, a snack can be one of the best tools in your arsenal. But if you choose unhealthy snacks—they’re often the kinds that come in packages—then you do the exact opposite.
That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most popular chips, crackers, popcorn, and snack bars that either have sketchy nutritionals or do more harm than good for your belly. Make sure you’re not munching on any of the following unhealthy snacks—and then start snacking smarter with these 40 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim.
Unhealthy Snacks Category: Chips
Lay’s Potato Chips, Barbecue
These are an American favorite—especially for the male population. They’re not the worst chip on this list in calories or sodium, but they do still contain 10 grams of fat. If six-pack abs are in your sights, these chips are not your friend.
Although these may have a more pleasing texture, they’re not worth the eye-popping fat content. (Trivia: Ruffles was originally created to mimic the ruffles in fabric during the late 1950s. Its design was supposed to prevent breakage.)
Lay’s Potato Chips, Classic
These are so salty and oily, you’ll find a coating on both your fingers and tongue after just one.
Pringles Sour Cream & Onion
The use of soybean oil and MSG drops the rank of these Pringles. MSG increases appetite by blocking the message to the brain that you’ve eaten your fill—hello, abdominal fat! Consuming MSG is only one of the bad habits making you fat!
Herr’s Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips
If you’re one of those people who puts ketchup on literally everything, you’re probably tempted to indulge in these chips. But proceed with caution. Combining two salty items can only produce one result: sky-high sodium and fat. One serving contains 10 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium.
Cape Cod Original Chips
These crunchy chips are nothing but potato slices fried in oil and salt. A little too much salt, if you ask us.
Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream
The nutritional profile of these and Ruffles’ Original are about the same. However, this cheesy flavor contains artificial dyes, which a study in Neurotherapeutics discovered can contribute to ADHD in children.
Ruffles Bacon & Cheddar Loaded Potato Skins
Ruffles’ complex flavors are simply junky. In eating 10 measly chips, you’ll cash out 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 170 milligrams of sodium. No, thanks.
Ruffles Baked Cheddar & Sour Cream
These oven-baked chips may boast a lower fat content than their fried counterparts, but they add in a ton more salt—and sodium counts big time. For every extra gram of salt you eat in a day—that’s a mere ⅕ of a teaspoon, or about what you’ll find in one of those tiny salt packets from the soup shop—your risk of obesity climbs by 25 percent, according to a study at Queen Mary University in London. Researchers speculate that sodium alters our metabolism, changing the way we absorb fat.
Fritos Corn Chips, Chili Cheese
One serving of these Fritos costs you 10 grams of fat and 270 milligrams of sodium, both diet demons. They’re also made with caramel coloring—which is often found in soft drinks (one of the unhealthiest foods on the planet)—and is a possible carcinogen in humans, as found by a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study. If the possibility of absorbing more fat doesn’t scare you, an increased risk of cancer should.
Cheetos, Flamin’ Hot
You know how these spicy cheesy chips dye your fingertips red? Just imagine what they’d do to your insides. This snack is jam-packed with artificial dyes and MSG, an addicting flavor enhancer that keeps you reaching into the orange bag.
UTZ Red Hot
Spicy foods are notoriously good for giving your metabolism a kick, but these red hot chips are an exception. Riddled with artificial dyes, MSG, and a whopping 300 milligrams of sodium, you’re better off skipping this snack.
Unhealthy Snacks Category: Microwave Popcorn
Jolly Time Mini Bags Blast O Butter, Ultimate Theatre Style
Although we kept serving sizes consistent for most of the popcorn bags, we made an exception for this one. That’s because the bag is marketed as a single serving, so we’d assume people would likely work through the entire thing. Doing so means you’ll set yourself back 16 grams of fat coming from inflammatory palm oil. It’s not just microwaveable popcorn that does it; check out these foods with misleading serving sizes to see more examples of how you could be duped into consuming more calories than you were initially led to believe.
Cousin Willie’s Buttery Explosion
This bag of kernels is a relic of the old days. Before the FDA announced that it was banning partially hydrogenated oils—also known as artery-clogging trans fats—from food, the majority of microwaveable popcorn brands contained this shelf-stable ingredient. Because the ban was enforced in 2018, many brands have moved away from this cardiotoxic ingredient. Not Cousin Willie’s. The Indiana-based company serves up 150 percent of your recommended maximum intake of trans fats—one of the worst foods for your brain—in their standard serving.
Besides the high sodium and fat content, we were also irked by Pop-Secret’s addition of palm oil and vague “natural flavors” to their kernels.
Act II Xtreme Butter
With TBHQ and palm oil, we’d rather stay snackless in the theater.
Pop-Secret Double Butter Flavor
It might have less fat than other popcorn brands, but Pop-Secret contains more salt. And it’s no secret that a high salt intake is bad news for your health.
Orville Redenbacher’s Pour Over Movie Theater Butter
Those 14 grams of fat are full of linoleic acid: an omega-6 fatty acid that has been found to be possibly adipogenic, which means it promotes fat storage in our bodies. Luckily, you have the calorie-cutting power in your own hands, thanks to Orville Redenbacher’s “Pour Over” butter. Use the flavor sparsely!
Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter
This might surprise you, but the ingredients of Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter are the exact same as the “Homestyle” bowl listed below. But because there is more fat and sodium in this recipe, we’d recommend going with the option below if you have to choose one.
Orville Redenbacher’s Homestyle
It might be called “Homestyle,” but we’d bet you don’t have “artificial flavors” or “TBHQ” in your pantry. We do, however, hope you have these healthy pantry staples!
Unhealthy Snacks Category: Crackers
Keebler Club Crackers, Original
They’re a go-to staple snack when your stomach is upset—but, unfortunately, not so great in general. At first glance, the nutritionals don’t seem too bad but since these crackers are so nutrient-void, doubling or tripling your serving size (which is pretty easy to do when the recommended serving size is just four crackers!) can spell bad news for your belly fat.
Ritz Roasted Vegetable
As the name suggests, this box contains a handful of dehydrated vegetables. The problem is, the main ingredient is still flour and it’s bogged down with partially hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup.
Ritz Bits Sandwiches, Cheese
Time to stop reaching into your tote bag and doling these out to your kiddos; they’re soiled with sugar, artificial dyes, and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.
Cheez-Its’ lack of fiber prevents these crackers from having a meaningful impact on hunger. If you’re going to snack, do so smartly.
Keebler Club Crackers, Multigrain
If you’re looking for a plain cracker to calm your tummy, you can find one without preservatives and high fructose corn syrup.
Keebler Town House Flatbread Crisps Sea Salt & Olive Oil
The four grams of fat here come mostly from soybean oil, which the experts are not exactly fans of.
Nabisco Wheat Thins Original
Wheat Thins rely heavily on refined grains, which means less protein and fiber in each serving.
Unhealthy Snacks Category: Nutrition Bars
Detour Cookies ‘n Cream Crunch
If the whopping 350 calories in this Detour bar didn’t deter you from skipping it, consider the ultra-long ingredient list.
Powerbar Performance Chocolate
The first four ingredients in this performance bar are different types of sugar, which explains the absurd sugar content in this bar. While this bar might help you power through your workout, excess sugar gets stored in your body as fat—deeming this bar one of our worst unhealthy snacks!
Balance Bar Chocolate Peanut Butter
Following a protein blend, the second ingredient in this bar is sugar in the form of fructose. A study by the Endocrine Society found that fructose is a major cause for dangerous visceral fat.
Clif Bar Chocolate Brownie
Opt for a Snickers bar over this chocolate brownie Clif and you’ll save a gram of sugar!
Zone Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
This bar boasts 10 grams of protein and is under 200 calories, so at first glance, it may seem like a good choice. But don’t be fooled—it certainly deserves a spot on our list of unhealthy snacks. It contains four different forms of sugar within the first six ingredients listed on the nutrition label. Brown rice syrup and corn syrup are the first two ingredients, which means they’re the most abundant. Plus, the lack of fiber won’t keep your hunger pangs or blood sugar spikes at bay. For better nutrition and protein bar options, don’t miss our list of best nutrition bars.