Everyone has a go-to snack food. Potato chips, cookies, crackers, candy bars ... drooling yet? However, some recent revelations about the industry that creates these mouth-watering treats may not be so appetizing.
Poor restraint may not be to blame for our inability to turn down a tempting snack. The New York Times recently published an excerpt from Pulitzer-winning journalist Michael Moss' new book Sugar, Salt, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us, which suggests the food industry spends millions to attract customers through various scientific methods that include marketing and the very design of the chip itself. Things like crunch, feel and aroma are taken into account to make the most addicting, perfect potato chip.
Did you know that Frito Lays created a 40-thousand dollar machine to simulate the process of chewing and concluded that customers prefer a chip that snaps with "four pounds of pressure per square inch?"
Even though such detail isn't what most people would take into account when they grab a bag of Doritos, the food companies explore every way to make sure you consume their products, even at the expense of health, alleges Moss.
With obesity affecting more than one third of American adults -- and the epidemic costing us 190 million in annual medical costs -- it's time to create a dialogue about not only what we're eating, but why.
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While jarred peanut butter manufacturers must concern themselves with long and unpredictable shelf life, you do not. That means the stabilizers, preservatives and even the need to preserve excess fat and salt can go out the window. Try <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-peanut-butter-recipe/index.html">this five-minute recipe</a> from the Food Network, or just grind up your favorite nuts until they form a smooth (or crunchy!) paste.
Crunchy, sweet-salty pickles are a healthy snack, and also a snap to make at home. Try this easy <a href="http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/dill-pickles-recipe.htm">TLC recipe for dill pickles</a>, or look for one that ferments the cucumbers <a href="http://www.wildfermentation.com/making-sour-pickles-2/">with live-active cultures</a>, which may have some <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/11/22/101122fa_fact_bilger">additional health benefits</a>.
This popular fermented bean cake is easy, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/08/01/157701522/how-to-make-your-tofu-and-eat-it-too">if time consuming</a>, to make at home. And doing it yourself ensures not only that you'll use non-GMO, organic soybeans if you'd like, but you'll also have a chance to avoid some of the contamination problems associated with commercial varieties.
This healthful sandwich condiment lacks the fat of mayo and sugar of BBQ sauce, and it's also <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/making-homemade-mustard-easier-than-you-think/64871/#">easy to make at home</a>.
This cultured dairy food is one of the most popular on the market, and with good reason: it's a great source of calcium, can help with digestion and can be made in low-fat and low-sugar versions. It's <a href="http://www.foodinjars.com/2012/04/homemade-yogurt-in-mason-jars//">a bit involved</a> to make at home, but simple and <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-yogurt-at-home-125070">cheap</a>.
Whole Grain Bread
Bread made from whole grains is more healthful than white -- full of fiber and vitamins -- but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/food-packaging-labels_n_1934157.html#slide=1590538">labeling on store-bought bread </a> can be confusing and misleading. <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/homemade-bread-recipes-176762">Making whole grain and multigrain breads at home</a> ensures that you know exactly how much refined flour is going into your loaf.
This children's favorite is full of artificial colors and flavors at the store -- and may not even include real fruit. But <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/homemade-fruit-leather_n_1891919.html#slide=1534890">homemade, healthy fruit leather is easy to make</em> and delicious.
Individual packs of flavored oatmeal could have processed fruits, stabilizers and other add-ons you might not want. But if you make a <a href="http://greatist.com/health/45-healthy-foods-to-make-and-never-buy-again-041712/#">big batch of rolled oats at the beginning of the week </a>, you can add your own flavorings each day. HuffPost Healthy Living staff favorites: lemon curd, raisins and slivered almonds!
Flavored water is more healthful than sugary alternatives like soda and juice drinks, but you're still drinking something that might have artificial flavors. Making your own couldn't be simpler: add some cut up berries, cucumber, citrus, mint leaves or other natural flavors to a jug of water et voila.
The healthfulness of granola bars ranges from excellent to "glorified sugar delivery system." One way to control the sugar and refined grain content -- and keep processed binding agents at bay -- <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-granola-bars-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-176676">is to make your own</a>.