Since the so-called obesity epidemic has become a popular topic among health experts, the media and people concerned about personal nutrition, many food manufactures have heeded the call and begun packaging their products in 100 calorie portions. But even if you can only eat the recommended portion, choosing chips or cookies for a snack doesn't contribute much nutritional value to your daily intake. We asked Seton Northwest Hospital clinical dietitian Janessa Slatky, RD, LD what she thinks about the trend.
"I've noticed the growing trend in 100 calorie snack packs, you can get them in anything from Oreos to Lorna Doones," says Janessa. "But I've never seen any 'healthier' options personally. I can see where they would be a good idea if you are unable to have a whole bag of Oreos staring you in the face but they really are just a marketing ploy and people need to remember that the food industry has profit, not nutrition or health, in mind."
"While its true that anyone wishing to maintain or lose weight needs to prevent themselves from getting overly hungry and therefore overeating by keeping healthy snacks nearby, you also have to keep in mind that these are junk foods and should only be eaten once in a while. One hundred extra calories a day causes a 10 pound weight gain in one year," continues Janessa. "If you love junk food, by all means eat it and enjoy it- just not too much at a time, not too often, and without kidding yourself that its good for you."
But when you have a snack attack, you need something to eat, right? Janessa agrees, but cautions thoughtful choices.
"There's a 'splurge' and then there's a snack. A snack should be low in added salt, sugar, and fat. It should be small in portion size and made from fewer processed ingredients and more fresh ingredients. Oreos are a splurge. They are low in nutritional value relative to their calorie content. Price-wise, the mark-up is almost 50% when the food industry breaks them into 100 calorie snack packs."
"To me, a good snack should be affordable, portable, and satisfying. I avoid pre-made snacks aisle in the grocery story, preparing my own snacks and save money at the same time. My favorites are whole fruits, chopped and sliced veggies, air-popped popcorn, dry cereal, yogurt, string cheese, and hard boiled eggs. I chop, slice, dice, and prepare my snacks ahead of time. I even portion them out and prepackage them in a Ziploc bag. Voil- my own 100 calorie healthy snack pack."
The following are helpful hints to help make your snacking better for you.
You can easily prepare your own 100-calorie snacks, built around foods you like to eat. The key to controlling calories is to work with a reliable calorie-counting guide, then weigh and measure every ingredient -- at least at first.
One of the tricks is to actually measure your snack so you won't over- or underestimate the portion. If you are purchasing a snack, use the handy measurement tools you come with - your own fist or finger. Your fist is about the right size for a serving of fruit or a cup of popcorn and your forefinger is about the size of an ounce of cheese.
When you can, avoid vending machines. Unless they stock fruit, it is unlikely you can find anything under a hundred calories, much less something that is good for you. If you must buy something be sure and check the serving size before consuming. Many manufacturers fudge calorie and fat counts by counting only one serving when the package contains more.
Package a snack or two and stick it in your desk drawer if you work in an office. Then when co-workers bring in donuts or cookies and everybody is sitting around eating one, you have something to eat, too. It will just be pre-planned and healthier.
Many offices feature refrigerators, but some snacks still work at room temperature. It's not a bad idea to make some of each to vary your choices. If you store them in a community fridge, be sure to put your name on them.
Be sure to calculate your snacks into your daily calorie count to avoid gaining weight. Stick to 100 calories or less per snack. Remember that weight gain is linked to energy in (what you eat and drink) versus energy expended (what your body needs to maintain itself plus any added activity).
Choose your snacks to meet recommended dietary intake from various food groups. Fruits and veggies count as servings plus adding antioxidants and vitamins, dairy-based snacks count for protein and calcium, whole grain servings can be satisfied by snacks and a handful of nuts contributes minerals, trace elements and important non-saturated fats (such as omega 3 fatty acids from walnuts).
You can eat more of lower-calorie snacks such as veggies so they are more filling. Eat them raw for added texture.
The following are some suggestions for snacks that contain 100 calories or fewer. You can substitute your own favorites, add a teaspoon or two of fruit jams, peanut butter or other condiment as long as you stick to the total calorie count.