100-calorie packs not as healthy as they seem

As usual, promises to lose weight and be healthier have begun ringing in the New Year.

And this year numerous convenience products decorate grocery store shelves, advertising themselves as healthy, nutritious snacks.

The “100-calorie pack” has jumped on the scene as the super-hero, quick-fix food. Don’t get me wrong; I myself enjoy these tasty treats, but you should take caution when surrounded by the brightly colored boxes and the hopes of a sinless snack.

True, these portion controlled packages only contain 100 calories, but most have increased sugar or fat content. Additionally, they typically do not provide beneficial nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals. In the article “100-Calorie Snacks: Between Meal Treats That Won’t Blow Your Diet” Christine Gerbstadt, a resident dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said one package usually contains 2 -2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar.

Thus, the “empty-calorie” giants are overshadowing nutritionally rich options, many of which are just as convenient and economical.

Here are some other healthy suggestions from my knowledge as a registered dietitian in training and Gerbstadt’s article:

1. Medium apple

2. 15 strawberries dipped in 1/4 cup lite whipped topping

3. 1/2 pita round topped with 2 tablespoons each hummus and chopped tomato

4. 1 container low-fat or no fat yogurt

5. 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1/4 diced peaches

6. 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1 slice whole grain toast, cut into strips

7. 1/2 string cheese and 4 whole-wheat crackers

For people trying to eat right and watch their weight, the 100-calorie packs can be a great substitute for sweets when only a cookie will do. With prepackaged portions, the opportunity to blow a diet on an entire bag of Oreos is greatly diminished.

But if you can honestly handle just one Oreo or a handful of Wheat Thins, then it may be more economical to buy the real deal. Assistant professor Gina Hill of our own nutrition department said 100-calorie packs cost more money per measure.

“Meaning, if you compare the price of a box of Cheese Nips versus the 100-calorie snack packs of the same item, you’re sure to see a hefty price tag for less food on the individually packaged items,” Hill said. “Consumers can do the same thing by portioning out about the same amount, putting the snack in a baggie to take with them or keep in their desk or backpack.”

Overall, the packs offer a lesser evil cure for the snack attack, but beware not to let them interfere with more nutritious options.