1. Snack bars make lousy snacks

    Most of us have done it at some point. Looking for a quick snack, we bypass the candy bars and grab something that's supposedly healthier -- like a cereal, granola, or energy bar.

    We know they're not perfect, of course. But they've got to be better than that tempting candy bar, right?


    I'm not actually going to recommend candy bars, but it turns out that many of the "healthier" snack and energy bars actually pack as much sugar as candy -- and in some cases, they have even more.

    The "healthy" Clif's Crunchy Peanut Butter bar, for example, has 21 grams of sugar -- the same amount of sugar you'll find in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. The Clif bar has less fat, but it also has more calories.

    Some of the other Clif bars have 25 grams of sugar --even more than the 24 grams you'll find in a Hershey's bar.

    I don't want to just pick on Clif bar here, because it's not the only offender in the snack bar section. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything worth eating at all.

    Balance Bars have up to 18 grams of sugar, while some of the Odwalla bars have 17 grams. Luna bars have up to 13 grams of sugar, and that old standby -- the Power Bar -- can have a whopping 30 grams of sugar.

    That's actually 25 percent more sugar than that Hershey bar I mentioned earlier!

    Cereal bars aren't much better, and that includes the ones that trade on supposedly healthy brand names.

    Special K, for example, is marketed as a healthy cereal that can even help you to lose weight. In reality, it's just another bowl of empty carbs -- and with 4 grams of sugar per cup, it's not exactly low in sugar either.

    But that's nothing next to Special K bars, which can have up to double the sugar of the cereal.

    You're better off making your own snacks at home. Sure, they're a little more work, but they will be a lot healthier and a whole lot cheaper, too.

  2. Common cereals are more than 40 percent sugar

    Instead of changing your own habits here in 2012, make one change for someone else: your kids.

    Stop giving them cereal.

    Even the healthiest cereals are usually just a blend of different kinds of carbs: sugar and some of the worst grains imaginable (and don't believe those "made with whole grains" labels -- because that doesn't make this stuff any healthier).

    Some cereals are more than half sugar.

    Environmental Working Group recently took a closer look at the ingredients labels of some of the most common and popular cereals and found that both Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp are more than half sugar by weight -- 55.6 percent and 51.9 percent, respectively.

    Number three was almost there -- Kellogg's Froot Loops Marshmallow is 48.3 percent sugar.

    Froot Loops by itself was already heavy in sugar (41.4 percent, coming in at number 10) -- but when they added the marshmallows, they went for the record… and actually fell just a little short.

    Better luck next time, Team Froot Loop.

    And the Quaker Oats man, who's supposed to represent old-fashioned purity? He's actually responsible for FOUR of the top ten most sugar-soaked cereals: three flavors of Cap'n Crunch and something called Oh!s, which appear to be sugar-coated Cheerios.

    You can see the full report here, which also features some helpful comparisons -- like the fact that those Honey Smacks contain more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie.

    Even the healthy-sounding Wheaties Fuel -- breakfast of champions, but with "fuel," right? -- has more sugar than that Twinkie.

    And a single cup of Honey Nut Cheerios has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.

    When a Twinkie or Chips Ahoy cookies turn out to be the better choice, you know you created something special.

    EWG has some alternatives for parents looking for better options -- like unfrosted Mini Wheats and original Kix, which I think refers to the kicking and screaming kids do when they find out their Honey Smacks have been replaced by a "healthier" option.

    In reality, cereal in general isn't a healthy option for breakfast. If you're in charge of mornings in your house, cook up something fresh each day instead -- make it something all of you can eat together, and everybody wins.

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