Beyond Snack Packs: 22 Healthy Munchies
Are 100-calorie packs really your best bet for healthy snacking? Dietitians weigh in.
Consumers are turning to 100-calorie snack packs -- of crackers, cookies,
chips, and more -- in record numbers. Obviously, many see these convenient
little bags as a great way to control calories and keep them from polishing off
whole bags of less-than-healthy snacks.
But is this new food category -- which has gone from $0 to $150 million in
sales in less than two years -- really the best bet for those trying to eat
healthy snacks and control weight? WebMD put the question to several
How Healthy Are 100-Calorie Snack Packs?
The 100-calorie packs work best when it comes to foods we should enjoy in
limited amounts, says health columnist Carolyn O'Neil, RD.
"A snack like nuts is perfect for 100-calorie packs, because lots of
folks tend to mindlessly eat larger servings," says O'Neil. "And even
though nuts are nutrient-rich, they could contribute too many calories if the
packs were not portion-controlled."
That goes as well for sweets, which are a weakness for many dieters. Sweet
treats like 100-calorie ice cream bars and cookies are a great way to have your
cake and eat it, too -- as long as you can stop at one.
"I support the 100-calorie packaging to help with portion control, but
if consumers think it is fine to eat more than one, it negates the
benefit," says Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, chief dietitian at St. Barnabus
Hospital in Bronx, New York.
Stokes says that packaging items in smaller containers can help control
"Studies show the larger the container, the more people eat," says
Stokes. "So by reducing the size of plates, bags, and containers, it should
help us reduce the amount we eat."
American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Marisa Moore, RD, likes
100-calorie products for their portion control, convenience, and ability to
satisfy a sweet tooth. But because many of these snacks lack fiber, she says,
they won't stave off hunger for long.
"The 100-calorie snacks lack staying power, and as a result can lead to
premature hunger and a higher calorie intake in the end," she says.
She'd rather see people choose snacks that provide needed nutrients while
taming hunger. For example, she says, "in only 160 calories, a serving of
almonds is satisfying and provides heart-healthy fats, fiber, and
Baylor nutrition professor Suzy Weems, PhD, RD, is concerned that
100-calorie snack packs are just another way to give us license to eat
empty-calorie foods we don't need.
"We need to focus on foods that are needed for good health, and while
these snacks are controlled in calories, they tend to provide few
nutrients," she says.
Author Elisa Zied, RD, recommends planning your snacks based on foods that
are missing in your diet. If at the end of the day you have met your quotas for
all the food groups, then enjoy a 100-calorie snack pack -- but just one.