Splurge or snack?

If you are a snacker keeping tabs on the scales, you’ve probably seen those 100-calorie packs in the supermarket. While some feel these mini snack packs are a dream come true others question whether they are truly the perfect size to help keep your diet on track.

For those who struggle keeping serving sizes in check and often end up polishing off the entire bag of Doritos or Oreo’s, the 100-calorie snack pack does serve a great function: built-in portion control.

Provided you stop at one bag and don’t go back into the box for a second or third one, these portion-controlled goodies can help you eat less. Also, the 100-calorie bags can help bring a halt to auto-pilot eating where you keep reaching into that bag of goodies for more.

However there is always another side to consider. A recent study from Arizona State University found that pre-packaged little snacks actually boosted calorie intake in people who were most likely to buy them: chronic dieters.

Researchers speculate that when dieters see a small bag of food they associate it with ‘diet food’ – something that is low in calories and helpful in controlling food intake.

Researchers further considered that when this same group saw numerous pieces of food in multiple, small packages they were more likely to perceive the multiple packages as containing more calories than regular sized packages.

The conflicting information raised the notion that something that is like ‘diet food’ can’t also be high in calories. The conflict, researchers say, causes stress in chronic dieters which consequently makes them eat more.

So what is the verdict on portion-controlled snacks; a good snack or just a splurge?

The bottom line is that the 100-calorie goodies are still highly processed foods. They lack the nutrients that suppress the appetite – protein, fibre, and healthy fats – and they should not be meant to replace healthy snacks.

The best type of snack is one that supplies both carbohydrate and protein; carbohydrate to help boost energy (or blood sugar) and protein to slow the release of sugar offering a satisfying feeling that lasts.

Here are some examples of 100-calorie snacks that offer this carbohydrate-protein balance. These snacks are far more likely to suppress the appetite than just one 100-calorie mini snack bag:

*Two fat-reduced whole-grain Triscuit crackers with one-teaspoon of peanut butter on each cracker;

*Three dried apricot halves and three walnut halves;

*15 almonds;

*Apple and one part-skim cheese stick;

*Seven baby carrots and two tablespoons of hummus;

*One tall-size skim milk latte.

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