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The Scoop on 100-Calorie Snacks

Registered Dietitian Melanie Douglass analyzed several of the packs to determine what's really behind the attack of the snack packs.

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I ventured out to the grocery store and bought several varieties of each kind"intending to find the "best" 100-calorie snack out there. And wow, was I surprised. Here are my findings:

The Obvious 100-calorie snack packs have one very powerful benefit: built-in portion control. It's something we all need because we all struggle with it. If portion size is a major hurdle for you and if you find yourself needing "just a little something" to get through the day, then one serving of a 100-calorie snack can be perfect for your lifestyle.

However, I know from pathetic personal experience that it's really hard to eat one pack and be done. I ate 3 packets of those darn Lorna Doone snacks before I could muster enough willpower to make myself stop. Grrrrr.

They're not that different!
The nutrient content is practically the same across the board. Most varieties have 100 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 5 - 10 grams of sugar, and very little, if any, fiber. The guideline for healthful eating is to "eat no more than 30% calories from fat". And with 3.5 grams of fat per serving, most varieties are just eking by"with 31% calories from fat.

Even though 9 of the 10 products I reviewed had similar nutrient content, one variety did come out as the leader"by a long shot. My vote for the "healthiest" 100-calorie snack goes to Snyder's 100 Calorie Pretzel Packs" one decent pack has 100 calories and zero grams of fat and sugar.

Even 100 calories can be too high in fat.
Healthful foods should have no more than 30% calories from fat. A few of these 100-calorie snacks have 50 - 60% calories from fat. Yikes! Make sure snacks have no more than 3 - 3.5 grams of fat per 100 calories to keep fat intake down. I'm okay with people eating foods higher in fat"if the fat is a healthy monounsaturated fat (like canola oil, nuts, etc). But most of the fats in these snack packs come from partially hydrogenated soybean oil or palm oil, which are not the healthiest fats for your heart.

A small portion of "the real thing" often has similar nutrient content. For example:

(1) Chips Ahoy Candy Bites pouch has 100 calories, 4 grams of fat (2 grams saturated), and 11 grams of sugar.

(2) Oreo cookies have 106 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (1.3 grams saturated) and 9 grams of sugar

The Oreos are lower in saturated fat and sugar! Go figure. The problem is you have a whole package of Oreos that you have to find the willpower to walk away from. And that can be a problem for many"

For 100 calories, there are "healthier" snack choices. Hands down, a better option for a 100-calorie snack would be a medium piece of fresh fruit or 2 - 3 cups of broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, or celery. You'd get a healthy dose of powerful vitamins and minerals, more fiber, less fat and less sugar.

You could also try "Kashi TLC Fire Roasted Vegetable Crackers" or "Kashi TLC Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Cookies". One serving has 130 calories"slightly more than most snack packs"but these products have 2 - 3 grams of fiber per serving and are made with healthful ingredients like canola oil (high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat), and wholesome grains.

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Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM
Author: Tip-a-Day Guide to Healthy Living
(Deseret Book, 2007)
www.tipadayguide.com

© 2008 Melanie Douglass, Deseret Book

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