Are 100 Calorie Packs Good For You? By Dana Carpender

Please tell me I’m not the only one who talks back to the television. Okay, what I really do is yell at the television. I yell at politicians, and the people on my soap operas. I yell with real gusto at food ads.

Recently, I’ve been yelling at ads for calorie-controlled snacks, like the Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs. Just think! You can eat this whole pack – 15 “Oreos” or “Chips Ahoy” or whatever – for just one hundred calories!

I beg of you: When you see ads like this,
yell “100 calories of what?”

In an Oreo 100 Calorie Pack, you’ll get enriched flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, cocoa, cornstarch, leavening, artificial color, salt, powdered sugar, and artificial flavor. I find the three kinds of sugar particularly enchanting.

80 calories come from 20 grams of highly refined carbohydrate – white flour and sugar – with just one gram of fiber. The rest come from 2 grams of fat, and 1 measly gram of protein.

You will get 0% of your vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. You’ll get 9% of your iron, because it’s been added to the “enriched” flour.

All this, so you can eat 15 little chocolate cracker-like things (no cream filling) about the size of a nickel. You could have two real Oreos for the same calorie count. They’d be just as nutritionally pathetic, but they’d taste better.

The Quaker Rice Snacks ads inspired much yelling when they advertised themselves as “one hundred percent fad-free.” I snack on foods that have been around for millennia. Rice cakes are 20th century invention.

Still, they’re low calorie, and they’re made with whole grain, the buzz word of the day. Surely they’re a good choice!

Quaker Rice Snacks in the “lightly salted” variety have 35 calories each, so you could have three for 105 calories. You’ll get 21 grams of carbohydrate, with no fiber, no fat, and just one gram of protein. No vitamins and minerals, at least not in quantities great enough to appear on the label.

There’s no added sugar, but that hardly matters. Rice cakes have a glycemic index between 80 and 90. That’s 20 to thirty points higher than table sugar! Choose one of the flavored varieties and the calorie count goes up – and often you get added sugar, as well.

The worst thing about these low calorie snacks isn’t that they’re nutritionally empty. It’s that they’ll jack your blood sugar around and make you hungrier. There is no advantage in limiting yourself to a 100 calorie snack if it drives you to eat an extra 300 calories a couple of hours later.

So cut it out! Eat snacks that will satisfy you until your next meal. How about:

  • A cup of sugar-free hot chocolate. 25 calories, 4 grams carb, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein, plus 30% of your calcium.
  • Half an apple with 1 ounce of cheese. 145 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of protein, 21% of your calcium, plus A, C, Bs, some potassium and zinc.
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, with vanilla or lemon extract and sugar-free sweetener stirred in. 150 calories. The label will say 12 grams of carb, but most of the lactose has been converted to lactic acid by the bacteria, leaving only a few grams. 13 grams of protein, 45% of your calcium, 31% of your riboflavin, 23% of your B12, 17% of your potassium, 15% of your zinc, plus some B6, C, and folacin. If you prefer, you could buy sugar-free flavored yogurt; my grocery store carries several varieties. Keep in mind that if it has fruit in it, that will add some extra carbs, but some vitamins and fiber as well.
  • Celery stuffed with 1 ounce cream cheese. 105 calories, 2 grams each carb and protein, 1 gram fiber. Appreciable quantities of A, all the Bs, calcium, iron, and potassium.
  • A slice of deli boiled ham and a slice of Swiss cheese, with mayo and mustard in between. 148 calories, 2 grams of carb, 13 grams of protein. 28% of your calcium, plus some A, C, B6, B12, and zinc.
  • 12 strawberries. 43 calories, 10 grams carb, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram protein. 136% of your vitamin C! Plus some folacin, potassium, and iron. (You could slice some strawberries into your yogurt, you know.)
  • A hard boiled egg. 78 calories, 1 gram carb, 6 grams protein, 15% of your riboflavin, 9% of your B12, 6% of your folacin, plus some A, B1 and 2, calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc.
  • Two rye crisp breads spread with 1 ounce liverwurst. 166 calories, 14 grams carb, 4 grams fiber, 6 grams protein. 83% of your vitamin A, 99% of your B12, 26% of your B2, 12% of your B3, 17% of your iron, plus zinc, B1, B6, and folacin.
  • Or raw vegetables, with this quick, easy, and nutritious dip:

Pesto Dip

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup pesto sauce, purchased

Put the cottage cheese and sour cream in your food processor with the S-blade in place, and run till it’s very smooth. Transfer to a bowl, swirl in the pesto, and serve with cut-up vegetables.

5 Servings: 89 Calories; 7g Fat; 6g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Fiber; 3g usable carbs.

© 2009 by Dana Carpender. Used by kind permission of 100 calorie author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.

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