The best and just very worst snacks around

We know. It's 4 o'clock. And you really, like really want a snack. You know you should have an apple, but let's just say...that's not gonna happen. Snack-time is often how diets are blown, weight is gained, and we all get bummed out.

But help is on the way! On behalf of unhealthy snackers everywhere, I caught up with the Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, two New York City registered dietitians (yep, they're twins-identical) and authors of The Secret to Skinny and Fire Up Your Metabolism. They took me to a Manhattan grocery store and ruffled through bags and boxes of salty crunchies to suss out the best and just the very worst munchies around.


PRETZELS (Snyders's of Hanover). Good choice, right? It's true they only have 120 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving (24 snaps), but they're soaring in salt (390 mg of sodium). "Pretzels are a real downfall for people," says Lyssie, "My clients think they're healthy and eat a whole family-sized bag in front of the TV." So, snack or put back? PUT BACK

PRETZELS, UNSALTED (Snyder's). Only 110 calories for 20 mini pretzels. Zero fat. And a mere 75 mg of sodium. Thumbs up from the Narcs. But without that sodium, you may not share the love. To replace the salty sock-it-to-me, try spritzing the pretzels with no-fat butter spray and a sprinkle of onion or garlic powder. Or dip them in 2 tablespoons of nonfat yogurt with onion and garlic powder and chives. "The calcium and protein will help fill you up while only adding about 20 calories," says Tammy. Snack or put back? SNACK

YOGURT-COVERED PRETZELS (Sweet Gourmet). For such a healthy-sounding combo, 9 mini-pretzels unload 200 calories and 10 grams of fat-8 of them, the heart-clogging saturated and transfat kind. On top of that, you're swallowing 23 grams of sugar, almost 6 teaspoons. And it's hard to eat just 9. PUT BACK

CHEESE PUFFS (Cheetos). These things are so airy, there's no there there-which makes it all the more amazing how easily they can pack fat on to your thighs. One serving is only 13 of the puffs, but it's got 350 mg of sodium, 160 calories, and a whopping 10 grams of fat. PUT BACK

BBQ POTATO RIPPLE CHIPS (Utz). They're delicious, but one serving (20 small chips) is 150 calories and a lot-10 grams-of fat, 2.5 grams of which is saturated. You could blink and eat the whole 4-serving bag. "They're not the worst, but not nearly the best," says Lyssie. PUT BACK

BAKED POTATO CHIPS (Lays) On the chipster scene, these are rock stars. A serving is 120 calories and only 2 grams of fat (none of it saturated) and while the sodium, 180 grams, isn't great, it's better than many chips. You also get a couple of grams of fiber. SNACK

BAKED TORTILLA CHIPS (Guiltless Gourmet). Another good choice. Each serving has only 120 cals and 3 grams of fat-the healthy kind-and you get 18 chips. The sodium is not great, 200 mg, but you do get a little fiber. SNACK

BAKED PITA CHIPS (Stacy's). Another winner, especially the "multigrain" variety-at least you might think. But, wait! While a serving is only 140 calories, for your 9 chips, you're getting an awful lot of fat-5 grams-along with 270 mg of sodium. You can do better. PUT BACK

SOY CRISPS (Glennys). A little on the rice-cackey side, admittedly. But they might be worth acquiring a taste for. A serving-about 10 or 11 crackers-has only 70 calories and 1 gram of fat (the good kind). Plus it's got 5 grams of soy protein. "It's rare to get a chip snack with protein," says Tamny. "And it's great that the soy is not genetically modified." In fact, go for 2 servings. SNACK

DRY ROASTED SOYBEANS (edamame). Speaking of protein, a large handful (one serving) of these crunchy beans offers a bonanza-13 grams-along with 7 grams of fiber. "You'd have to eat 1,000 calories of chips to get that much protein," says Lyssie. A serving will cost you 130 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 230 mg of sodium. But it will fill you up. SNACK

COMBO NUGGETS (Combos). "Fat Nuggets," might be a better name. A serving (teeny) of the new Jalapeno Cheddar Tortilla flavor is 210 calories plus 10 grams of fat, almost half of it the artery-clogging kind, 5 grams of sugar, and a chart-topping 460 mg of sodium. PUT BACK

PISTACHIO NUTS (IN THE SHELLS): "Among nuts, these are the highest in fiber and protein, and the lowest in fat," says Tammy. "Thirty pistachios have about 100 calories and they're much more satiating than a light chip. Plus you see the shells pile up, so it reminds you how much you're eating." SNACK


* TO LOSE 8 POUNDS: Every day, swap a serving of 9 yogurt covered pretzels for a serving of 20 mini pretzels (go unsalted), and that will save you enough calories by the end of the year to lose 8 pounds.

* TO LOSE 15 POUNDS: Sub your daily serving of Combo Nuggets for one of Soy Crisps and that will save you enough calories to lose 15 pounds.

* TO LOSE 30 POUNDS: If you swap 20 yogurt-covered pretzels for 20 mini pretzels, you'll save enough calories to lose more than 30 pounds.

For more good advice when you want a chip, read:

Do's and don'ts of mindful snacking

Good grab 'n' go foods

Creative, healthy munchies

[Photo Credit: Liz Brody]