Nutrition Articles

Facts on 100-Calorie Snack Packs

Do Good Things Really Come in Small Packages?

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Convenience foods and snacking go hand in hand. Unfortunately, many of these convenient snacks also go straight to our waistlines. When "snack packs" appeared on the market just a few years ago, dieters rejoiced! Now, they could easily count calories and enjoy their favorite snacks at the same time. In fact, the 100-calorie snack packs proved to be so popular that sales have skyrocketed to almost $200 million in under three years. But how healthy are these snacks and should we even be eating them at all? Do good things really come in small packages? Let's break down the snack pack facts.

Automatic Portion Control
Some dietitians and behavior experts believe these small 100-calorie packages are ideal for foods that we should only enjoy in limited amounts anyway, such as chips, cookies and chocolate bars. Numerous studies have shown that when a food container is larger, people will eat more. In fact, they're more likely to eat until they reach the bottom of a box or bag, without even realizing how much they’ve eaten until all the food is gone. Therefore, smaller portions sizes will help you eat less, right? Well, new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that smaller "snack" packages encouraged participants to eat nearly twice as much, often without hesitation, than people who ate from larger packages. The built-in portion control of snack packages may help some people curb mindless overeating, but this theory works only when you limit yourself to one package. If you consume more than that, the benefits are lost.

Hunger Satisfaction
While the snack packs are winners for portion control and short-term satisfaction, they 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. A handful of nuts or a piece of fruit could stave off the munchies for around the same number of calories while also providing key nutrients like fiber or healthy fats.

And despite the fact that the labels on these snack packs claim "0 grams of trans fats," many still contain hydrogenated oil—the prime source of trans fats. Legally, manufacturers can label products as trans-fat-free if they contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

The Price of Convenience
While there are plenty of 100-calorie choices on the market, from chips to cookies and crackers to pudding, you'll pay a higher price for these conveniently packaged snacks. Snack pack manufacturers charge as much as three or four times the price of conventional packaged foods. 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-sized bag of chips, which contains three times as much food. More single-use packaging also means more waste from an environmental standpoint.

But judging by the explosive growth of the market, many dieters are choosing to pay more in order to avoid temptation. While you could simply divvy up a bag of chips or crackers into smaller portions yourself, many people don’t want to spend the time. If you can’t control your eating when faced with the full-sized version of your favorite snack, but you can eat just one smaller-portioned bag, a 100-calorie snack pack might be worth the extra money and help you reach your weight loss goals.

Smart Snack Alternatives
If you want a healthy, low-calorie snack but don’t want to pay the premium for convenience, here are some healthy snacks you can prepare yourself. You'll save money, reduce waste, and stay fuller longer with these 100- to 200-calorie ideas that you can portion out yourself.
  • Low-fat cottage cheese (4 oz): 80 calories
  • Raisins (50 or about 1 oz): 85 calories
  • Skim milk latte (8 oz): 85 calories
  • Air-popped popcorn (3 cups or 1 oz): 95 calories
  • Graham crackers (8 small rectangles): 100 calories
  • Thin pretzel sticks (48 sticks or 1 oz): 100 calories
  • Celery (5 pieces) with peanut butter (1 Tbsp): 100 calories
  • Unsweetened applesauce (1 cup): 100 calories
  • An apple (small) with low-fat cheese (2 oz): 150 calories
  • Baby carrots (10) with hummus (1/4 cup): 150 calories
  • Peanuts (a handful or 1 oz): 160 calories
  • Raw almonds (a handful or 1 oz): 165 calories
  • Low-fat yogurt (6 oz): 175 calories
  • Tortilla chips (12 chips or 1 oz) with salsa (1/2 cup): 175 calories
  • Whole wheat Ritz crackers (10 crackers or 1 oz) with peanut butter (1/2 Tbsp): 175 calories

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Member Comments

  • It depends on what you're buying in a snack pack and how you're using it. I have a box of 100 calorie snack packs of almonds. Just plain almonds, no chemicals or junk. I only take one for when I'm going to be on the go, so the rest of the box is unavailable to me.
  • My snacks are not exactly portion controlled packs - but kind of better. The small apples are p10 (20 cents USD), and 55 calories. My mixed nuts are a 1 oz bag, at p6 (12 cents USD), and 150 calories. That covers my sweet and salty snack needs.
  • They are just full of junk and chemicals so I don't eat them. But I can see for people who are working on portion control that they may be helpful. I'm trying to lose my sweet tooth so those types of foods just keep me addicted so I stay away. I would rather take the time and prepare healthier snacks than spend the money on that stuff.
  • Great article. But I don't buy them. I make my own.
  • I purchased them only twice in the past and I did eat several packs at one time. I don't plan to purchase more.
  • TJ_JEEPER
    I will eat a packet maybe every other day. They do fill me up for close to 3 hours, which is fine. Very very rarely will I eat 2 in a day, spaced out. But right now I have 2 boxes still more than half full. They are good and it helps I don't need the chocolate ones. Limits my choices on which to choose.
  • AMBERTHEOS
    I love them! I am a waitress and leae them around at work and instead of a dinner roll or frys I grab one to stop my cravings!
  • I do buy them from our Amish Scratch and Dent store, but I don't "abuse" them, and I try to look for items with higher fiber and protein. :-)
  • It is interesting to me that people would buy expense snacks and then consume two or three. It show that the answer to or issues are not outside us.
  • I really believe what this article says!! I bought a box of Slim Fast snack bars, they're 100 calories each (I think). so one day I was craving a piece of chocolate, and ended up eating 3 of the bars, which totally defeats the purpose!!
  • I used to buy the 100 cal packs. I don't any more. I do however make my own using the snk baggies. I'm a weighin' measuring fool!
  • GRAMMY7070
    I find these are much too expensive. I buy snack size ziplock bags and measure out my own snacks. I can control it better this way.it's worth the time I take to count or measure snacks out.
  • -BENI-
    You have to be careful, many of the foods listed are high in salt which will put on fluid - I can gain 4 pounds just in water weight with salty food!! I avoid it at all cost!
    The little 100 cal packs are nice because they can stay without going bad and truly be for emergency only!
    I do love carrying apples, carrots, bananas and raw almonds - they are always good. They satisfy the sweet and crunch that's often needed.
  • I love 100 calorie packs. They give me something to vanquish my cravings without leaving me with an entire bag or box of temptation!
  • This report is very helpful to me. Gonna make some bags 0f peanuts when I am on the go that will be a cheap snack. Als celery with Peanut butter I like that. Susan

About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

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