If you haven’t noticed on the grocery shelves, there has been an explosion of the “100 calorie snack pack.” Before you know it, you may find yourself browsing the 100 calorie food aisle. Example products you might find are Keebler Fudge Shoppe Grasshopper Cookies, the Special K Chocolately Drizzley Bar, Chex Cheddar Chips, or the Quaker Cinnamon Streusel Mini Delights. So is a single portion of junk food better than just eating junk food the old fashioned way? Well, actually there are some pros…  Imagine the 3 or 4 o’clock afternoon hour…It has been awhile since lunch and will be awhile until dinner, and you may even have a workout to do between those meals. Therefore, eating a snack becomes very important.  The calorie level of your snack may vary individually, but most of the time a 200 calorie snack or less is appropriate. Snacking gives you the energy you need for a productive workout, it allows you to not overeat at your next meal, and it provides you an energy kick at the time of the day when most people need one. If you have a 100 calorie snack pack in your possession now, that is probably a good sign. You have planned ahead. For many, this is the most difficult part of eating healthy, planning ahead. If you substituted a 100 calories snack pack for a 240 calorie candy bar from the vending machine, you would find yourself 15 pounds lighter at the end of a year. Not bad. Other pros of this marketing, is the fact that it reminds us what 100 calories look like. It is quite understanding in today’s world how we have lost sight of that. In addition, if your craving is salty or sweet, it is nice to know how you can tame that craving and not do too much damage. Now some of the cons. First of all, most of these snacks are highly processed and do not keep you satisfied. Highly processed foods can you leave you starving by dinnertime and possibly even more hungry than if you would have skipped it.  Snacks that contain water, protein, fiber, and even a little fat help us feel full. Most of these snacks are refined carbohydrate that leave you wanting more. In addition, if you are concerned with food costs, you will be paying at least twice as much for these conveniences (true with most convenience items).  The individual packaging also creates more waste. Portion out your own and save money as well as packaging. So what do I bring for a snack? Here are some ideas for 100 calorie snacks that contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, whole grain, contain protein, healthy fats, and most importantly will leave you feeling full.  * Many people could afford to have a 200 calorie snack, so therefore could double the portions.   3-4 cups popped low-fat popcorn (great source of whole grains and fiber) ~1 cup minestrone soup or broth based soup Apple with 1 oz low-fat cheese 25 pistachios or 10 almonds, 10 cashews 6 oz fat-free yogurt with 1/2 cup bran flakes 1 very small baked potato, 1/2 cup salsa, and 2 Tbsp sour cream 5 oz tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and 1/4 cup fat-free dressing 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (this is hard to do…) Either way, don’t stop snacking, it can be a good way to manage weight, but plan ahead, check the nutritional information regardless of the calories, and snack wisely!

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.