It's not surprising that some of our favorite snack and "junk food" choices are high in fat. The rich, creamy goodness that fatty ingredients supply makes these high-calorie options simply mouthwatering. Unfortunately, an excessive focus on these foods, along with other factors like sedentary lifestyles, are contributing to obesity and heart disease in North America and around the developed world. Add to the fact that these foods are often easy to prepare or ready-to-eat and inexpensive, and it's easy to see why health care professionals are worried about their prevalence in our modern society. While there's nothing wrong with having a delicious and possibly low-nutrient treat every now and then, it's best for your health if you keep foods high in trans and saturated fats to a minimum in your daily diet.
Milkshakes are creamy and delicious, and we can convince ourselves they aren't entirely unhealthy because milk provides calcium and vitamins. However, the average milkshake has 32 grams of fat, and that excess of dairy and sugar (around 75 grams) leaves many people feeling sluggish and bloated.
Splurging on a classic milkshake can be a special way to celebrate a big day, but if you're craving this treat more often, consider swapping it out for shakes made with frozen yogurt or fruity sorbet. These slightly healthier options might leave you feeling a bit better, so that the after-effects don't take away from the special event.
A classic of American culture, French fries are revered by many as a quick snack or a perfect side dish. However, they definitely don't stack up on a health level. Potatoes themselves have some nutritional benefits, but once you toss the slivered starches into sizzling oil, you're eradicating all those perks. Most fast-food fries are also dredged in salt after frying.
A serving of French fries contains around 17 grams of fat, and none of that is the healthy kind. It's best to keep this snack to a very occasional splurge, but that doesn't mean your homemade burgers and beer-battered fish has to ride the plate solo. Baked fries are just as delicious, or there are plenty of other side options that give you a bit more nutrition, such as coleslaw.
This one should come as no surprise, since it's the main ingredient in milkshakes. While milk and cream, despite their fat content, have nutritional benefits, the sweeteners and other additives — like chocolate chips, toffee bits, and fudge — often stirred into ice cream pretty much eliminate any benefits we might get from a bowl of Rocky Road. Bloating, sugar crashes, and feeling full but not sated can all surface after this snack.
Luckily, healthier and healthier alternatives to ice cream are hitting grocery store shelves. Frozen yogurt isn't always much better for you, but unsweetened and naturally sweetened options can improve matters. Dairy-free options can also just masquerade as healthy, but reading ingredient lists and nutritional info can tell you which products really do have more to offer. Of course, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a small bowl of ice cream — but be mindful of the potential repercussions of overdoing it.
Another classic of American culture and cuisine is cinnamon rolls. These delicious pastries combine some of the best flavors for a buttery, gooey, extra-sweet dessert. Just one average sized cinnamon roll contains more than half the calories most people aim to consume in a day. While, as with the other foods on this list, indulging now and then in a cinnamon roll is ok, this one doesn't have much saving it, nutritionally. The exception, of course, is to seek out a healthier recipe. Lower fat, or at least higher-nutrient, alternatives to almost every dessert exist on the internet, so if your weakness is the spicy, sticky goodness of grandma's cinnamon rolls, you can almost definitely find a less tooth-decaying option!
Another food that doesn't really have any saving graces on its nutritional profile is the pretzel — and it's one of those quick-to-devour snacks that makes going back for more painfully tempting. In addition to white flour, which is heavily processed so that next to none of the nutritional benefits of whole grain remain, pretzels are usually brushed with butter and covered with coarse salt, sending the fat and sodium content through the roof. Most come with dip, too, which is probably not hummus.
Eating food like pretzels day in and day out for years will almost undeniably increase a person's risk of heart disease and weight gain. As a special treat once a year at the fair, indulge yourself, but in general, you'll want to opt for healthier choices.
The frappuccino has become the coffee drink of trendy summer shoppers, but in addition to pumping you full of energizing caffeine, chances are the icy beverage will line you up for a sugar crash before the shopping list is through.
Just one average-sized Frappuccino drink can contain around a third of the average daily calories, stemming from high-fat milk, whipped cream, and sugary syrups. The biggest mistake people make when buying a frap is in thinking of it like their daily coffee, rather than a special dessert. Frame it in your mind as the latter, and there's no harm in the occasional indulgence.
Sausages are a favorite due to their rich and savory flavor. They make the perfect complement to many dishes, but they can also be enjoyed by themselves. However, many types of sausage are extremely high in trans and saturated fats, not to mention sodium and, in some cases, additives and preservatives.
Luckily, sausage is one more food on this list that does have healthier alternatives if you're willing to look for them and maybe sacrifice some of the greasy leavings. Turkey sausages come in outstanding flavors like apple sage, and even vegetarians are no longer left in the dust, with scrumptious and more heart-friendly options on most grocery store shelves.
Potato chips are one of the most popular foods in North America, and they're high on the list of the least healthy, as well. Though baked options exist, most of the population is in agreement that they just don't hit the mark on flavor, so, unfortunately, people looking to pivot to a healthier diet will need to drastically reduce their consumption of this greasy, salty, crunchy snack.
Limit yourself to a small serving of regular potato chips for special occasions like family picnics, and look for other ways to get that satisfying crunch day to day. Vegetable chips are still often high in fat, but at least offer some nutrients from the main ingredient. Learning to make baked kale chips is a great way to hit the salty mark without maxing out on fat and calories in one short sitting.
Popcorn is one of those snack foods that doesn't have to be as unhealthy as it often is. Consider movie popcorn, utterly drowning in butter (or fake butter) and salt. Add in the extra-large serving and, likely, the jumbo-sized soda pop, and the nutritional info is enough to have you packing carrot sticks for your next action flick, but it's the additions, not the base product, that's causing the problem in this case.
Popcorn itself, unseasoned, is quite innocuous, and making it the traditional way with a couple tablespoons of oil or using a spritzer rather than drizzling butter over it, can cut the fat content tremendously. Seasonings like chili powder and nutritional yeast can deliver intense flavor without the sodium, and keeping servings to 4 cups or so helps, too. You might even find you're a fan of plain popcorn, which makes a great midday snack.
Cheese is not an unhealthy food across the board, but some varieties are high enough in fat that this property overtakes any potential benefits. The difference between cheese and some other foods on this list that the fat in cheese might be the healthy kind, such as omega-3 fatty acids in some grass-fed options. The dairy product does also contain saturated fat, but the reports on how harmful this type of fat is are beginning to change.
Though an ounce of cheddar cheese has around 10 grams of fat and 120 calories, it does tend to be quite filling and might help stop you from snacking on the nearby bag of potato chips. And while many people are sensitive to the lactose or casein (a protein) in cheese, certain varieties are low enough in these problematic compounds as to be digestible. Pair a healthy, natural cheese with whole-grain crackers and some sliced fruit or veggies, and you can turn this once-frowned-upon food into a snack rockstar.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.