Fast Food

America's unhealthiest packaged snack foods

Walking down the “snacks” aisle of a supermarket can be an ordeal for someone who’s watching his or her diet. So many of these processed items, whether sweet or savory, contain staggering amounts of fat and calories and are loaded with unpronounceable ingredients like disodium guanylate and sodium acid pyrophosphate.

Why, exactly, is America so hooked on junk food? Is it the sugar, the fat, the salt? Or maybe it’s the advertising and some sort of psychological addiction? Whatever the reason, we eat a lot of junk. Junk food comes in plenty of different varieties, and some contain more sugar, fat, and salt — more calories — than others.

While just about everything is okay to eat in moderation, most consumers don’t pay nearly enough attention to serving size and portion control. While a cookie or two won’t do much damage to your waistline, a package of 10 might max out your recommended allowance of fat for the entire day. Potato chips and tortilla chips are known for being high in fat, and packaged snack cakes and baked goods can contain a lot more of the bad stuff than you may realize. 

We’ve broken down the junk food aisle into 10 categories, and in each category we’ve found the worst offenders in terms of fat, sugar, salt, and calories. The next time you find yourself in the junk food aisle, you might just think twice before grabbing that Chex Mix, or any of the other favorites that made our list.

  • 1. Potato Chips

    Potato Chips

    Frito-Lay

    Thicker chips, like Ruffles, and any chips flavored with cheese or other dairy products are often the ones with the most fat and calories.   

    Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream (Serving size: 1 ounce, about 11 chips or 28 grams)
    Fat: 10 grams
    Calories: 160
    Sodium: 180 milligrams

    Pringles Xtra Screamin' Dill Pickle (Serving size: 1 ounce, about 16 chips or 28 grams)
    Fat: 9 grams
    Calories: 150
    Sodium: 105 milligrams
    Sugars: 1 gram

  • 2. Tortilla Chips

    Tortilla Chips

    Frito-Lay

    While tortilla chips are lower in fat and calories than potato chips, they’re usually still fried and are certainly not healthy. Also, are you really going to stop eating after six chips?

    Tostitos Hint of Lime (Serving size: 1 ounce, about 6 chips)
    Fat: 7 grams
    Calories: 150
    Sodium: 125 milligrams
     
    Doritos Toasted Corn Chips (Serving size: 1 ounce, about 13 chips or 28 grams)
    Fat: 7 grams
    Calories: 140
    Sodium: 120 grams

  • 3. Snack Mixes

    Snack Mixes

    General Mills

    Over-the-top sodium levels are especially common in snack mixes. The American Heart Association says that you should consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, so you can see that even these modest serving sizes can pack a wallop.
     
    Chex Mix Bold Party Blend (Serving size: 1 cup)
    Total fat: 9 grams
    Calories: 240
    Sodium: 400 milligrams

    Cheez-It Snack Mix Double Cheese (Serving size: 3/4 cup or 30 grams)
    Total Fat: 5 grams
    Calories: 130
    Sodium: 470 milligrams

  • 4. Corn-Based Snacks

    Corn-Based Snacks

    Frito-Lay

    Highly processed corn contains little to no nutritional value, and once corn snacks are fried, loaded with sodium, and tossed in “cheese,” they become some of the unhealthiest things you can eat.
     
    Fritos Original (Serving size: 32 chips or 28 grams)
    Fat: 10 grams
    Calories: 160
    Sodium: 170 milligrams
     
    Cheetos Flamin' Hot Crunchy (Serving size: 1 ounce, about 21 pieces or 28 grams)
    Fat: 11 grams
    Calories: 160
    Sodium: 250 milligrams

  • 5. Gummy Candy

    Gummy Candy

    Starburst.com

    Not only are these gelatin-based snacks full of empty calories, but the sugar content is through the roof, too.
     
    Fruit Gushers Variety Pack 
    (Serving size: 1 pouch, or 25 grams)
    Fat: 1 gram
    Calories: 90
    Sodium: 45 milligrams
    Sugars: 12 grams
     
    Starburst GummiBursts (Serving size: 9 pieces, or 40 grams)
    Fat: 0 grams
    Calories: 130
    Sodium: 40 milligrams
    Sugars: 22 grams

    Check out more unhealthy packaged foods.

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