Snacking has become an American pastime. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, more people are snacking between meals, and that trend shows no signs of letting up. That’s not all bad. Research shows that eating healthy snacks that are well-planned may actually help people control their weight. Enter 100-calorie snack packs. These packs of snack goodies are marketed as a way for people to control their portion size. Most people underestimate how much they eat when they snack out of a non-portion controlled bag – but are 100 calorie snack packs really all they’re cracked up to be?
One-Hundred Calorie Snack Packs: Are They a Healthier Snack Option?
One-hundred calorie snack packs do offer some benefits. The most important thing they do is control portion size. That’s a good thing if you’re a person who doesn’t stop eating until you reach the bottom of the bag. What’s not so good about 100-calorie snack packs is what goes in them. Pretzels, cookies, crackers or chips are some of the more common “goodies” that are stuffed into these packs. When you rip one open and bite into its contents, you’re getting little fiber or protein, which would help suppress your appetite.
Most 100-calorie snack packs consist of processed carbs with little nutritional value. The exception is nuts, which offer healthy fats, protein and fiber. Some snack packs contain partially hydrogenated oils (check the ingredients), although they may have zero grams of trans-fat when you read the nutritional information. It always pays to read the ingredient list too. In addition, you’re paying a premium price for the convenience of having someone else package your snack, something you can do at home.
Better Alternatives to the 100-Calorie Snack Pack
If you’re trying to eat a clean diet, most 100-calorie snack packs, with the exception of nuts, aren’t going to cut it. Wouldn’t it be better to snack on healthier fare? For 100 calories or less, you could have some of these more nutritious options:
Half of a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and mustard
A cup of mixed strawberries and blueberries
Two light string cheese snacks
Half a cantaloupe
Half a small apple with a teaspoon of peanut butter
A half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese sprinkled with blueberries
A cup of low-fat vegetable soup
A container of carb-control yogurt
A cup of sugar-free almond milk mixed with two teaspoons of chocolate syrup
A half-cup of cherry tomatoes dipped into a quarter-cup of hummus
These snacks offer more nutritional value and hunger-controlling protein and fiber than snack packs you pick up at the supermarket. Most supermarket 100-calorie packs will raise your blood sugar and drop it just as quickly, leaving you craving another snack two hours later. You’ll satisfy your hunger, get more nutritional benefits and save money by passing on the 100-calorie snack pack and choosing something unprocessed and high in protein and fiber. On the other hand, if you have a craving for cookies and nothing else will do, it’s better to nibble them from a 100-calorie pack. At least you’ll limit the portion size.
J. Nutr. February 2010 vol. 140 no. 2 325-332.
Nutr J. 2011 Jul 14; 10:74.