Junk food can be gluten, dairy and nut-free. "Health foods" can also be high in fiber and protein and still not be good for your waistline. And buzzwords like "paleo" and "vegan" don't necessarily mean a snack is healthy, either.
In short: navigating supermarket aisles on a quest to separate the good-for-you from the bad-for-you is more challenging than ever. Which is precisely why we turned to leading health experts to separate the fact from the fiction. We chatted with nutritionists, health coaches and more about some of the most popular "healthy" foods, from Right Rice to Halo Top.
Image via Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times/Getty
Claim: Pop Zero markets itself as healthy popcorn with under 41 calories per serving and natural ingredients.
What the experts say: "This is a non-GMO product, which is great," says Dr. Marina Yuabova, founder of Integrative Wellness NY. (It's an important fact to remember that most corn in the U.S. is genetically modified.)
"Pop Zero also has zero saturated fat, zero trans fat and it's vegan. It would be even better, however, if this product would be made with organic popcorn."
Claim: Bridjay's Superfoods markets itself as making USDA organic, wholesome superfoods that are non-GMO, free of dairy, sugar, wheat, gluten and preservatives.
What the experts say: "The collagen bark appears to be a good product and attractive to purchase because of the claimed amount of protein and fiber even though it's dairy, gluten and nut-free. The pre and probiotics are also a plus for those with gut issues." As for their other options, they're similarly high in fiber and protein while being low in net carbs making them a great option for weight loss without hunger.
Claim: Cocojune is certified organic and plant-based and markets itself as a good source of probiotics.
What the experts say: "Probiotic-rich foods can help promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut, but a diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut," says integrative health coach, Kerri Axelrod. With that in mind Axelrod recommends always choosing plain, unsweetened yogurt and skipping the flavors that contain added sugars — meaning if you're opting for Cocojune, stick with the Pure Coconut.
Verdict: Stick to Cocojune's low-sugar offerings!
Claim: Kind Bark markets itself as a chocolate snack with nutrient-dense ingredients.
What the experts say: Axelrod says that because the bark has 9 to 10 grams of added sugar (depending on the flavor), this would not be her first choice for a snack. "A better snacking option would be raw, unsalted almonds and a piece of 100 percent dark chocolate. You'll get the healthy fats, fiber and protein from the almonds to keep you satiated and the antioxidants from dark chocolate without the sugar and processed ingredients." The Bark also has 'natural flavors,' which is a catchall term for undisclosed additives.
Verdict: Too sweet!