Before You Bite: A Closer Look at Snack Packs as Twinkies Join the 100 Calorie Brigade


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

From rice cakes to cupcakes, crackers to chips, and everything in between, 100 calorie packs are the hottest trend on the snack shelves.

So what's the latest product to come in a 100 calorie pack?

The Twinkie.

Yes, your favorite sponge cake with creamy filling now comes in 100 calorie form.

The snack packs, called "Twinkie Bites," hit stores Monday, joining their 15 million pint-size Hostess brethren (cupcakes, muffins and coffee cakes) sold each year.

The three Twinkie Bites in each package look, smell and taste just like regular 150-calorie per cake Twinkies.

Which brings up an interesting point: If you shrink a Twinkie, it's still a Twinkie. It's not magically any healthier for you just because it's in a smaller package. You're only saving 50 calories and 2 grams of fat.

According to a SparkPeople poll, 64 percent of us buy 100-calorie packs at least occasionally. Why are we so enamored of snack packs?

Sure, they provide you with automatic portion control, which is so hard for many people. You could do the same thing at home by buying a regular bag or box and measuring out portions into sandwich bags or plastic containers.

The snacks produced in 100-calorie packs typically lack hunger-controlling nutrients (fiber, protein and healthy fats). This means that they won’t control your hunger for long and may lead to further snacking and higher calorie consumption over the course of the day. They're typically filled with preservatives, fillers and other empty calories.

And, they're expensive! For example, a box of six 100-calorie packs of chips weighs only 95 total grams but costs around $3.00. That's about the same price as a full-size bag of chips, which contains three times as much food. According to industry statistics, the 100 calorie snack packs garner $400 million a year! (The suggested retail price for the Twinkie Bites are $3.99 for a six-pack box, the same price as a box of Twinkies, which contain 10 individual cakes. That's 39 cents a serving versus 67 cents for the Twinkie Bites, a 67 percent markup.)

Snack packs do take the guesswork out of snacking. If you pick up a 100-calorie pack, there's little chance you'll be eating more than 100 calories if you only eat that one pouch of treats. However, there are plenty of other snacks that have 100 calories or so.

Here are a few snacks to get you started:

1/4 cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt with 1/2 a cup of blueberries and raspberries: 90 calories

1 2" diameter homemade chocolate chip cookie: 60 calories

An ounce of low-fat mozzarella cheese and 6 fresh basil leaves, with a cup of cherry tomatoes: 100 calories

5 ribs of celery with one tablespoon of peanut butter: 100 calories

Half a medium apple with a 1-ounce slice of low-fat extra sharp cheddar cheese: 90 calories

10 baby carrots and 2 tablespoons hummus: 100 calories

1 1/2 large rectangles of graham crackers: 90 calories

Tell us what you think: 100-calorie packs. Love 'em or leave 'em?

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    I never really tried them and now I see that a really good snack is much better for your health and your wallet! - 3/31/2012   10:43:17 PM
  • 208
    Used to love them, now I've learned to leave them in favor of a more nutritious snack! - 3/5/2012   7:59:28 PM
  • 207
    Leave them: I'm not proud of this but just a few weeks ago I bought a box of the 100 Calorie Hostess Coffee cakes. They are very tiny but admittedly very delicious. However, why I'm not proud of it is because they amounted to about 800 calories of my day. There is nothing about them that is satisfying and for some reason I felt pregnant because I could not shake the craving for them. MSG? Hah, probably not but I still say leave them on the shelf for someone else to "enjoy". - 3/3/2012   1:45:32 PM
    Leave 'em. If I want twinkies I buy the regular size. I'm not going to say that I will never ever eat another "sweet treat" aka: junk. There is a time and a place for every food. Lets face it God instructed the Israelites to prepare their cakes with corn, salt, oil.....sounds like our present day Frito!!!! My point is God did not put brownies or blue cheese dressing on this earth to torture us. I do enjoy my occasional treat if thats what I truly want. But I'm not going to pay them to measure it for me. Thats down right lazy. - 8/21/2011   12:07:27 PM
  • 205
    Leave 'em! Crap is crap no matter what size it is! - 8/16/2011   7:39:44 PM
  • 204
    LEAVE 'EM!

    Even though it may fit into your 'suggested calorie limit,' it's still a twinkie, which is a processed piece of junk.

    If you're really trying to make a lifestyle change, why not grab something a little more substantial that still fulfills your sweet tooth? greek yogurt with berries, peanut butter on whole grain crackers or bread, frozen fruit (bananas and grapes are the best!), or homemade baked goods made with apple sauce instead of oil or shortening. There are so many options out there if you just take a little bit of time to prepare them!

    If you think that thinking ahead is too hard, you're probably unfortunately not going to get very far in your weight loss goals! You gotta put the time and effort in to see results! - 8/16/2011   7:02:41 PM
  • 203
    Thanks for this information,I live in England and the idea of 100 calorie packs sounds so nice and convient!(not available where I shop)After reading this article,I am happy to continue to make my own food choices for snacks. - 2/13/2010   9:43:42 AM
  • 202
    The only kind I ever buy is the 100 calorie microwave popcorn bags. I usually eat fruit for a snack. I don't want to pay the inflated prices for one reason and they still have too much processed sugar and fat and white flour, plus way too much sodium. They just aren't healthy, plus they don't fill you up! - 12/23/2009   7:13:35 PM
    I don't usually buy them, i find them expensive and one package leaves me still felling hungry. I'll usually eat a piece of fruit, or will buy bigger packages and limit how much i eat at one time. - 11/29/2009   7:24:53 PM
    I like the 100 calorie packs for the same reasons the article pointed out - the portion size, the convenience, instant sweet gratification. I also agree with some of the folks on the boards about packaging - yikes, it is a lot.
    The food companies are catering to a niche market and can charge premium prices for these goods as long as there is a need for them. Many of us know someone (including ourselves) that justify our food choices because "it's only 100 calories". I would say that the people on this site are one step ahead of by focusing on the importance of portion control and making wise food choices. - 11/1/2009   11:39:37 AM
  • 199
    I buy them and use them a limited amount. I do find the packaging to be a problem, but for me personally, they are the right answer right now for a quick sweet treat. If I were to buy an entire package of something and split them up into snack size bags, I would still have a packaging problem (created by myself), and I'm more apt not to measure accurately or be in a hurry (or to grab an extra pack). I think there will be a time where I won't buy them any longer. But for now they're a good choice. - 9/4/2009   9:21:50 PM
  • 198
    Also, no one addressed the horrible environmental problem with all that packaging. You get less food for more money AND make more garbage that goes into the landfill (and takes more resources to make in the first place). Sounds like a lose, lose, lose to me! - 6/10/2009   4:30:06 PM
  • 197
    I've got a recipe for homemade vegan "twinkies" that kicks processed garbage outta the universe. ;) Plus, I make them with whole wheat pastry flour, prune puree instead of oil, and organic ingredients. MUCH better than any packaged garbage and, since I have to find the will power to bake, I don't eat them very often at all. Fruit is quicker than baking most days. Heh. - 6/10/2009   4:26:15 PM
  • 196
    no! i do not love them! don't waste your money on junk food! i agree with the's still junk food, just less of it! i don't think anyone is really "addicted" to junk food (maybe i'm wrong...who knows)

    but this is me, a person who doesn't eat packaged snack food! i love the ideas for snacks that give more nutrition, taste better, and help your body! eat some carrots if you want crunch, eat a serving of fresh fruit if you want sweet, and eat some seeds/nuts if you want salty. we're all on this site to be health conscious aren't we? don't shortchange yourself (literally) by wasting your money on these marketing schemes! - 6/4/2009   10:46:25 PM
  • 195
    I think they're a good idea since you can just throw one pack in your lunch as a snack and move along with your day. I eat everything except meats, but i do portion control. I can see where these little packets will keep someone like myself on track.
    - 4/7/2009   3:29:00 PM
    I personally like the 100 calorie packs. I live alone, so buying the big size of something and dividing it myself only results in two things: either I end up eating the whole container eventually anyway (because I'm the only one eating here), or I have to throw part of it out anyway because it went stale. The 100 calorie packs are great when a craving strikes and you want just a little treat without undoing your whole day of good efforts. For those that were critical because the 100 calorie packs aren't very is okay to eat "junk" food once in awhile. It's all about moderation. In my experience, there are times when I just want something that isn't fruit or veggies! A little 100 cal snack is enough for me to satisfy the craving without feeling deprived. A little indulgence every so often is much better than constantly feeling deprived and eventually getting frustrated and falling off the wagon completely. It's unrealistic to expect people to only eat nutritious food 100% of the time forever. It maybe good in theory, but not realistic in practice. Everyone just needs to figure out what works for them - 4/7/2009   1:26:35 PM
    I love them but never ever use them for a snack in the middle of the day. I cannot give up some sort of nightly dessert so far, and strawberries with one of the snack packs gives me the same sort of satisfaction as a much higher calorie dessert would. Plus, lots of sliced strawberries fills me up for the evening and gives me another serving or two of fruit for the day. - 3/4/2009   5:10:36 AM
  • 192
    Before I learned what a healthy snack should be, I used to buy the 100 calorie packs too. From my nutritionist, I learned that a snack should be one that contains protien and fiber. This will curb your hunger until meal time, which, in my opinion, is the purpose of a snack!!!! I don't think most 100 calorie packs fit that bill. Quite honestly, I love those cheese curl snack packs and yes, for that reason of quantity control, I would say those would be worth it. (Sadly at this time, I am restricted from all those foods. Sob!!!) - 3/1/2009   8:07:21 AM
  • 191
    They actually work well for me. I live my life on the road and they are easy to tuck in my suitcase, briefcase or purse. I do buy many others like chex mix and pretzels and measure and pack in snack bags. A big part of my weight loss challenge is I LOVE SWEETS. I really like CANDY, but serving sizes and calorie count helps me to enjoy some of my favorite treats in moderation. For instance, I buy a box of Hot Tamales and divide it according to the servings and calories and bag them in snack bags. When I get that craving, I grab one serving. It's the best of both worlds for me.

    I spent my life with children (all grown now) and always counted every dollar. Now it is just me and because of my hectic business travel, I pay for convenience. It's a lot better than eating the box (and sometimes 2) of my favorite snack. - 2/6/2009   9:22:05 PM
  • 190
    Since I found myself always reaching for another one, I ditched them. What good are they to me if I end up eating the same amount anyways? - 11/13/2008   3:58:04 PM
  • 189
    These are once again (in my opinion) simply marketing garbage. Hey what a better way than to take something unhealthy like Oreo's (don't get me wrong, I love oreos too) and market them specifically to the "diet" crowd. Hey, lets break them up into 100 calorie portions and then sell them in cutsie little packages for three to four times the cost if you purchsed them in their "normal" packaging and split them into single serving packs yourself.

    Here's what I do, because I am a mom and responsible for packing lunches in my household.... I buy the "snack sized" zipper bags at my local discount store, and then split up the snackies into single serving bags that way. I can use a food scale for chips etc or count out a serving of cookies etc. It may sound anal retentive, but it works and it keeps my family my wallet within a healthy balance. - 11/13/2008   12:22:14 PM
  • 188
    I leave them. To much money for so little, plus when I have eaten some, they do leave me still hungry and wanting more. NOT WORTH IT!!!!! Pick up veggies or fruit instead!! - 11/13/2008   10:02:43 AM
  • 187
    What a crock! Even if a Twinkie is 100 calories you still shouldn't eat it, it's nothing but over processed, hydrogenated crap! Use that 100 cals and eat something like fruit...sweet, natural and delish! - 11/12/2008   2:20:20 PM
  • 186
    10-11 Pitted dates are only 80 calories and they are all natural and delicious! - 11/12/2008   11:32:01 AM
  • 185
    In theory bagging your own portion control is great and I do it for many things--unfortunately with some things there's the problem of nibbling while bagging :) - 11/12/2008   11:17:02 AM
  • 184
    I love them! Quick and easy... you pay for the convenience and someone assisting you with the self control piece. - 11/12/2008   11:04:45 AM
  • 183
    I like the savory ones better than the sweet 100 cal packs. I have a hard time portioning out foods from a larger container. It take time and organization, which I have little of. I take them to work for a snack before lunch. It's just enough to hold me over until lunch time.

    Yes, I could have yogurt or fruit, but then you have to have the containers for them. Much more convenient to have everything packaged and not have to worry about refrigeration. My favorite pack right now is dried apples and peaches (single serving is actually less than 50 calories). - 11/12/2008   10:59:02 AM
  • 182
    I do buy the 100 calorie packs on occasion but mostly just the cookie ones. Cookies are my weakness and I can't seem to portion them out of a large container like I can anything else including chips. - 11/12/2008   10:31:46 AM
  • 181
    I like the chocolate hostess 100 calorie cupcakes. They taste good, satisfy the chocolate cravings and actually contain 5 grams of fiber. At least its a snack with a little nutritional value. - 11/12/2008   8:33:06 AM
  • 180
    I used to buy them when I first started trying to get healthy....It was a good way to control portions. Now I am much healthier and dont buy them at all.....instead I do granola bars or trail mix that I pack myself. - 11/12/2008   8:29:28 AM
    I've bought the 100 calorie kudos bars to take to work or have for a snack, have thought of buying the other ones but after reading this I guess I'll try making my own 100 calorie snack packs for work and late night snack attacks. - 11/11/2008   11:18:51 PM
  • 178
    I buy Fudge Shoppe Mini Fudge Stripe Cookies in the 100 cal packs. I get the 12 pack and it costs less per bag than the 6 pack. Other things, like baked chips, pretzels, etc. I measure and bag up myself. - 11/11/2008   3:22:39 PM
  • 177
    i did buy the 100 calorie snack packs before but i stopped. they are over priced and are still junk food. now i opt for something healthier like fruits. - 11/11/2008   1:29:14 PM
  • 176
    How crazy is this? A twinkie is not a nutritionally sound choice at 100 calories or 1000 calories! I guess if you really love twinkies the 100 calorie pack might be a good choice for a treat, but for me, no way! The way your mouth feels after you eat a twinkie says it all.

    My favorite 100 calorie snack is five dried prunes--like candy, but with fiber and potassium! - 11/11/2008   12:19:12 PM
  • 175
    I don't buy them, I make my own by looking at the nutritional fact on real size food and then make my own 100 calorie baggies. It's alot cheaper and you get more for your money. - 11/11/2008   10:42:27 AM
    I really like to buy the 100 Calorie packs because of the portion control. I know that you can save money by buying a larger package and putting a portion in a baggy, however I am always too generous with the portions. If the bag is already set I will only eat what is in there. I will only bring 1 or 2 100 calorie snack packs to work with me and then I am not tempted to go to the snack machine and spend more money and get less snack for more calories. - 11/11/2008   9:10:18 AM
  • 173
    They are OK on occasion but I try not to buy them b/c of the expense and the fact that they are not healthy. - 11/10/2008   11:09:07 PM
    I think these might work for some people. Myself, I think they are still junk food, you are just eating less of it. They have no nutritional value, and they don't fill you up. I think it is fine to eat junk food sparingly but eating one snack pack a day is still too much junk too often for me. I'd take the yogurt and blueberries anyday. I feel good after I eat something good for me and feel kinda gross when I eat junk. - 11/10/2008   8:45:05 PM
    I've tried some of them, and they didn't taste too bad. I bought them because I thought by eating these, I was saving on calories. Now, that I've read this, I won't be buying them. Twinkies don't taste like they did when I was a kid, anyway. - 11/10/2008   7:32:32 PM
  • 170
    If you wouldn't buy a big bag of it, you shouldn't buy a little bag either!
    I despise 100 calorie packs, I think they are a crutch and keep a lot of people from actually making good decisions because they think "100 calories" is synonymous for "healthy". When used sparingly or as emergency snacks they might be okay for some, but most people that I've seen with them still aren't making healthy decisions. I guess now that fat-free has been busted and just because its fat-free doesn't mean its calorie free, this is the new fad... Just makes you wonder what will be next! - 11/10/2008   7:21:17 PM
  • 169
    Yeah...I do. And, for me it works. I think it's all about finding what works for you. - 11/10/2008   6:25:38 PM
    I buy them at Costco.. where they are a lot better buy.. however not very often. My nights seem to be the time I want to overeat... so I will have one of these just to take away my little sweet tooth. Note: another really good night snack is the Dryer's "Sugar-Free" Fruit popsicles - only 40 Calories.. they are delicious, but beware they are not that cheap - 11/10/2008   5:43:33 PM
  • RAVANNA999
    I buy them to fill that late night craving for junk food! I figure those little packs will trick my mind away from having a bowl of ice cream! Also I only buy them on sale. - 11/10/2008   1:27:36 PM
  • 166
    I buy them. I like the Chex Mix and the Wheat Thins. I also buy mini bags of popcorn, but that is because I am the only one that eats it and it just isn't the same on day 2 or 3 when I decide I want it again. I don't buy the cakes or cookies because a little sugar will just make me want more. If I am craving a sweet, I eat fruit and that usually calms it. - 11/10/2008   11:58:20 AM
  • 165
    Most of my snacks during the day are very healthy, but I have a huge sweet tooth and need my sweet fix after lunch, so I am a regular buyer of the 100-calorie packs (despite the fact that I know it's WAY more expensive than they should be!!). I have bought regular-sized packages and have split them up, but here's the thing: You could put 1 cookie in a baggie for 100 calories, or you can have 15 tiny cookies in the 100 calorie pack. To me, the one cookie just doesn't cut it....I still want another one. I can stick to the 100-calorie limit a lot easier with the bite-sized ones. - 11/10/2008   11:57:12 AM
  • 164
    I buy the 100 calorie packs all of the time. I don't use them for during the day snacks. I try to stick with fruit and vegetables during the day. But since I am a late night snacker, it does help me keep control on eating one bag of 100-calorie chips instead of eating a whole bag of family size chips (believe me - I have done it). - 11/10/2008   11:13:09 AM
  • 163
    I must confess I buy a lot of these types of snacks! I even go to Sams warehouse and purchase the bulk boxes which believe it or not are cheaper... I am going to look into the perservatives and decide if it is really worth it! Which from the sounds of things it doesn't sound like they are.....
    Something else to give up to have a healthier life....I think the overall benefits make it worth it. - 11/10/2008   9:14:21 AM
  • 162
    I buy them all the time and eat probably four paks a week. Yes, they're expensive. Yes, they're empty calories. They are also convenient. I use them for a late night snack and also keep some in my car for emergencies. - 11/10/2008   9:10:22 AM
  • 161
    a rose by any other name ...
    I buy these only for my 12-year-old son's bagged lunches. I never eat them personally. If I am going to snack I want something that is worth snacking on. I like the convenience of these small bags and the low calories they have compared to the other convenient greasy bagged items I can stick in his lunches. He enjoys the variety they now have. Each week he picks a new box whereas the Frito-lay has had the same greasy variety pack for decades.
    Me, I'd rather have an apple or a yogurt. That is just me. - 11/10/2008   6:59:04 AM
  • 160
    I just have them tucked away for an emergency craving. I don't like to have big boxes or bags open for endless eating. That goes for my family as well. It helps with portioning. If there is one thing I can't stand to see my family do is sit down with a box or bag of something and eat. That is what I used to do. I don't want my kids to do that so the snack packs can come in handy. - 11/9/2008   11:44:43 PM

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