Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Health Food Imposter #12: 100 calorie snacks

Are 100 calorie snacks health food imposters?  Copyrigh 2013 -- Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD, CSSD -- Go Wellness
Health Food Imposter #12:  100 calorie snacks

The 100 calorie snack products are tricky.  The fact that they are portion-controlled and only 100 calories each may make them appear more healthful, but this does not make them high quality, health supportive, and deeply nourishing food.

  • Most of these 100 calorie snack products are made with processed flours, which have been stripped of valuable nutrients, including vitamins and hunger-satisfying fiber.  Most of them also contain a variety of sources of refined sugars, like corn syrup and dextrose, often contributing up to 2 teaspoons of added sugar per serving.  While these may satisfy a craving for something sweet, without the naturally occurring fiber or a high quality source of protein, these may leave some hungry again in no time.
  • Unfortunately, the 100 calorie snack products may also be taking the place of more healthful foods, like vegetables, fruits, or nuts, that could be consumed instead.  This could make one less likely to consume enough essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and other health promoting phytochemicals.
  • Many of these products also contain less healthful fats and oils, like trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils.  While these oils may enhance the shelf-life and flavor of a product, they will not  enhance your health.  Because the trans fat content is < 0.5 grams per serving, you will see 0 g trans fat listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel even though the product contains trans fat in the form of partially hydrogenated oils.  Always read the ingredient list.
  • Some of these products do a little health washing by using "yogurt flavoring", but that does not mean they confer the same health benefits as regular yogurt with live and active cultures.  The yogurt flavorings are generally nothing more than sugars and fats dressed up with heat-treated yogurt powders that do not contain live and active probiotic cultures.
  • Some of these products also contain moderate amounts of sodium that could pose a problem for sodium-sensitive individuals.  
  • Finally, some of these products also contain artificial colors, flavors, and other questionable ingredients that many people are now looking to avoid for a variety of reasons.  Again, while these ingredients may make the product taste or look better, they don't necessarily add to your health or quality of life.  
What is a better alternative?
There are many naturally lower calorie snack options that incorporate whole, real foods, so plan these into your diet. Some simple examples include almonds, pistachios, fruit with cheese, vegetable sticks with hummus, or even a hard-boiled egg.  Not only are these foods more nourishing, but they'll also often be more satisfying than the 100 calorie snack products.

Do you know someone who could benefit from this information?  Then please "like", "pin", or share it!  Thanks for reading!


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