I saw a commercial for 100 Calorie Oreo Cakesters this morning, and I just had to laugh. Am I the only one who thinks the whole 100-calorie pack trend is out of control? Not only are the packs a rip-off (containing 5-6 servings for typically a higher cost than their non-individually-packaged counterparts), but most of them are nutritional wastelands. Just because it has 100 calories doesn’t mean it’s good for you. 100 calories of Cheetos is still Cheetos! The 100-calorie packs are a prime example of how diet foods are not always the best choice. Sure, you’re only consuming 100 calories (IF you only eat one package, and let’s face it, people will often eat more than one at a time), but what benefit do those 100 calories have for your body? Very little, in most cases! Replacing a higher-calorie, nutrient-poor food (like an Oreo) with a lower-calorie, nutrient-poor food (like a 100 calorie Oreo Cakester) is a pitiful trade-off, if you ask me. Sure, you can eat a package of sugar free Oreos or some SnackWells cookies for minimal calories, but wouldn’t it be better to just eat an apple? Eating an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter is one of my favorite snacks, and not only is that snack relatively low in calories, it has nutritional benefits, including fiber and protein.
I think one of the reasons the 100-calorie packs have been so wildly popular is because of their built-in portion control. Many people eat mindlessly, sitting in front of the TV with an open bag of chips or cookies, and it’s very easy to eat 2-3 (or even 4-5) servings in one sitting if you’re not paying attention. (Believe me, I speak from personal experience.) For these people, the snack packs are a blessing and a way to keep from overeating. But the thing is, people could easily talk themselves into eating more than one pack at a time because they’re only 100 calories after all (and usually the servings are disappointingly small), and before they know it, they’ve probably eaten way more than they needed (again, personal experience talking here).
The snack packs also allow people to indulge their sweet tooth without consuming a ton of calories, which admittedly is a good thing, but I also think it’s far too tempting to rely on the snacks as a daily food source rather than an occasional treat. Even eating lower calorie diet foods daily can have a negative effect, if those foods are taking the place of ones that provide your body with the nutrients and energy it needs to function at its highest level. I don’t avoid all sweets; quite the contrary in fact. But if I am going to indulge, I eat one piece of a Dove chocolate or have some Jell-O Sugar Free dark chocolate pudding, which has 3 grams of fiber and is only 60 calories. You can still make occasional sweets a part of a healthy lifestyle.
From a financial standpoint, it makes more sense to just buy the “regular” version of some of these snacks and portion them out yourself, using plastic baggies or tupperware containers. From a nutritional standpoint, it makes more sense to bypass most of those foods altogether and choose foods that are low in calories and high in fiber and protein.
Some of my favorite snacks: almonds, grapes, carrots with a little ranch dressing, apples with peanut butter, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, tangerines.
Do you buy any 100-calorie packs? What healthy snacks are your favorites?