October 17, 2008

100 Calorie Packs Cut Snacking? Reeallly?

So it wasn't long ago I wrote a post about reduced calorie, portion controlled snacks. And here I am talking about it again. What gives?

Well, it's partly because I just came across some actual research on the subject!

Study Says Portion Controlled Snacks Cut Calorie Consumption

Yep, a recent study of 100-calorie snack packages found that people consume about 120 fewer calories a day when they're eating from the little 100 cal guys than when they're given the same snacks in normal-sized packages.

Hooray for research! So now those of you who like to buy and eat 100-calorie packs of your favorite junk foods can feel somewhat vindicated. You may well be eating less than if you were buying the regular versions.

Yet oddly enough, some folks are reluctant to have these little snack packs in the house.

People like, for example... me.

Shh... Are We All By Ourselves Here?

Not long ago Cranky Fitness hosted a giveaway featuring coupons redeemable for some low-calorie, portion controlled snack food. Many of you had mixed feelings about these 100 calorie (or less) treats, and expressed these feelings in a very entertaining manner. (And how cool is it that we now have a compilation of poems about snack foods? )

I said in the post that I have been known to eat these foods on occasion--which is true. I also said I thought they were a perfectly legitimate thing to snack on sometimes, which is also true. Especially if someone's actually done a study saying they help folks with portion control.

However, I won't personally have the little f*ckers in the house.

It did not seem sporting of me, however, to go into great detail about this at the time. Not when someone was giving us some 100 calorie thingies to try for free.

But now, after an unfortunate incident involving a wayward box of Golden Sponge Cake Twinkie-Like Snacks not even meant for me, I feel compelled to share my feelings about these portion controlled treats.

But What About the Giveaway? Where's the Beef?

Ah yes, a brief digression before I start whining about snacks:

As you may have noticed, it's Friday but yet again, this is not a giveaway post. Sorry.

It's looking like these won't be happening every Friday, but we hope that on many or at least some Fridays we may have Free Things for you to win. It sort of depends on whether anyone knocks on the blog's front door and says, "Hi ya Crabby, want some free stuff to give out?"

When they do, I'll say, "hell yeah!" unless it's for something way too weird. I have actually turned down offers before. You don't even want to know what you missed.

Of course sometimes, lacking free things to offer up, we may offer pictures of semi-naked men as a cheap appeasement gesture.

Photo by Nàlez

(Actually, it's not just a cheap gesture, it's principled feminist statement. Because at Cranky Fitness, we are still trying mightily to correct the appalling discrepancy between sexy-women images and sexy-men images in the media. We support women being Subjects sometimes and not just Objects. Wait... what does this have to do with 100 calorie snacks? Er... never mind).

So here is my brief list of reasons why I think...

100 Calorie Snack Packs Are Actually Instruments of the Devil.

Heh heh heh. One of my better ideas.
(Photo by zoomar)

1. They're Too Damn Small

I know, they're supposed to be small. But c'mon!

I think food manufacturers used to spend more time messing with the ingredients, rather than the portion sizes, of diet foods. They'd make normal sized stuff, but they'd use weirder constituent parts. That’s why diet junk food used to taste pretty much like artificial sweeteners, petroleum derivatives, insecticide, and cardboard.

Now the lower cal versions don't taste nearly as vile as they used to. Because they’re just as calorie-packed as the original! You just get less to eat.

Fair enough, I suppose. But so often the manufacturers try to disguise the fact you're only getting a couple of bites by hiding itty bitty portions in great big wrappers and boxes. And then they put freakishly exaggerated pictures on the front so you think you're getting an actual serving.

This works fine in the store—-the first time. "Wow, look what I get for 100 calories, that's a miracle! Hallelujah !" But this approach can backfire when the snack is taken home and opened. "THOSE are supposed to be cupcakes? Surely not for humans? Maybe they're marketing directly to ants now?"

I know we Americans are accustomed to gigantic serving sizes, but still. Even you sensible Europeans would be appalled at how miniscule some of these things are.

2. They're Expensive!

Portion control comes at a price. And it's not just the actual cost of those little wrappers and boxes; I'm sure of it. There's an additional "You're Afraid You Can't Control Yourself" penalty tax assessed on these items, paid for mainly by women. (Men who can't control themselves seem more likely not to give a crap and be perfectly happy with normal size packages). If you put all those tiny little servings together you might find you're paying $15 for the equivalent of a candy bar or $ 25 for normal sized bag of regular cookies.

3. They're Not Real Food

Readers of Cranky Fitness are very smart and are under no illusions that Light Donuts or 100 calorie Chocolate Chip Cookies or Potato chips, etc, are real food.

However, have you ever noticed that friends, relatives, and coworkers can get confused about this? They treat these things like they are real food and they eat a boatload of it because it's "low-cal." Their days start with reduced calorie toaster pastry for breakfast and then they have the "lite" choice at the fast food place for lunch and the 100 calorie snack item from the vending machine in the afternoon and a frozen reduced calorie tv dinner at night followed by a reduced calorie frozen treat for dessert, or three, because they're tiny. And these people think they're being incredibly virtuous! Yikes.

4. They come in boxes

Alas, I am not the least bit fooled by individual wrappers. You can call something a "serving size" and put some sealed plastic around it, but if you sell those little servings in boxes along with other little servings, folks like me will figure out that we can always open up more wrappers. We keep doing that until we are satisfied or the whole damn box is gone, and guess which usually comes first?

So I recently received, by mistake, a box of faux twinkies that I suspect was meant for another blogger--one who had not already cashed in on the faux twinkie giveaway by giving away snack coupons.

I didn't want the twinkies in my house; that's why I'd done the promotion as a giveaway in the first place and not as a review.

There were six teeny tiny twinkies in the box at 80 calories a pop. Two days later, all six were gone. (Or wait, could there have been 8? Oh Lord... lets hope it was six.) Actual calories per "serving" came to 240, unless it was 320. Crap. Alas, I don't think I burned many extra calories opening up those additional wrappers.

5. They're Tasty!

I know that many of you do not find processed portion controlled snack food to be the least bit tempting.

I do.

Those damn fake twinkies? They totally rocked. Sure, they tasted a bit plasticky, but I grew up eating synthetic food like that. Desserts that are super sweet and artificially moist have a special place in my heart.

Just not in my cupboard.

I know many of you already shared your feelings about these things, but feel free to do so again, or comment on whatever the heck you want. Got a fun weekend coming up? Are you registered to vote yet? Read any good books or seen any good movies lately? We're easy!


  1. You ATE them?! Crabby!! I'm surprised at you. Sheesh.

    I'm jealous.

  2. Just yesterday I noticed that the same brand of tomato soup that I've been buying for decades says "100 calorie portion!" on the front. What does this mean? It means there are now two and a half servings in the can, instead of the two that were there last time I looked. (Of course, I dump the whole can into a bowl and microwave without adding water so it won't be too thin to taste, so what do I care about portion size.) So the 100 calorie madness is spreading out from snack foods. Just wait: before long we'll be able to buy steak cut in 100 calorie portions.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  3. The idea of 100 calorie packs is nice. But so much of them is just plastic or something vaguely resembling food stuffed into a teensy package. Ack.

  4. When every penny counts, buy the large size and divide it into portions for yourself.

    If you have kids around (especially hungry teenage boys), don't even bother. The large bag will be inhaled in about 10 minutes.

    Even better, don't buy snacks often. Eat fruit and carrot sticks when you want snacks. That's all I usually offer my kids, and they don't argue.


  5. Twinkies? Meh...
    Beefcake wrapped in a principled feminist statement? Sweet!

  6. I bought the mini chocolate chip cookies or mini Oreos in those controlled portion packets once. They tasted OK but not great. I then realized that I'm not much of a cookie eater anyway, and I felt stupid about falling for the low calorie packaging. Never again. They're over-packaged, over-priced and totally lacking in real food quality. I'd much rather indulge in a really delicious evil than pseudo snacks. At least it would be worth the regression.

  7. I'm not a sweets fan (sacralidge, I know). I still have a pack of chocolate covered pretzels that Iforgot I had from @ 2 months ago. BUT, if they ever come out with potato chips and one particular brand of dip that I can't get enough of I'd be all about it - and probably eat it all at once anyway like you described! Never mind that it'd be 2 chips with some dip = 100.

  8. I never eat the 100 cal. packs!

  9. My inner granola has to take a stand against them.

    Every time I walk by them in the food aisle I think, "Great, we're at the point where we need to destroy the earth with all that extra packaging just because we can't control ourselves while eating stuff we shouldn't have even bought in the first place since it has zero nutritional worth and only empty calories."

    Yes, I think in run-on sentences.

  10. I'm totally in agreement. The only time I get things like that is if we're going on a roadtrip and I need handy snacks to pass out to the children to keep them preoccupied so I don't have to listen to them fight. In those situations, I figure that's the lesser of 2 evils and it's certainly easier than trying to dole out portions while keeping my hands on the steering wheel.

    But for at home use, really, I have better things to spend my money on. Like real, dark, orgasm-inducing chocolate that actually satisfies me in small portions.

  11. Very fun weekend planned here! Volunteering at the food pantry:) And you know, if you ever need to get rid of some food, your local food pantry would love to have it, no matter how many calories per bag!

    And as for me, you know I have no love for those little vaccuum-sealed packets of kibble;)

  12. Calorie controlled snack size alleged food is a scam. It gets us to pay more money for less product and a bunch of wrapping.
    If I was confronted with a snack size of anything I'd simply keep eating until I'd had a proper snack. And let's face it, that's exactly what they want us to do...

  13. I don't buy those individually sized packages. With one exception - popsicles/ice cream sandwiches. I used to buy a tub of ice cream, and it would last about a week. And who are they kidding when they say that thing has 14 servings?!! Um, more like 4 or 5! So when I switched to fudgesicles, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches, I definitely ate less.

  14. Personally I have a couple of those 100 cal packs that I use daily. It's my desert. It tops my meal with a sugar fix, but I am already full from the actual meal, so I don't feel deprived. I can see how they can turn into an instrument of the devil though... And I am bugged they all packaged up like that, though this is the point of them. I try to buy bulk so as to cut on my use of wrappers and others useless garbage...

  15. "You're Afraid You Can't Control Yourself" penalty tax assessed on these items


    you're too much! I love them but i'm also known to buy a box of reduced fat cheez its or triscuits, grab my scale and measure out my own 100-calorie packs. I'm cheap I mean clever like that.

  16. I agree that they are an instrument of the devil. Also, I don't bring snacks into my house. If I am craving something I have to actually go out and get it and that normally seems like too much work.

  17. The further the 'food' is away from it's original whatever it was (wheat into cereal etc), the more expensive it is and the more hands have manipulated it. The tiny packaging, the tiny wraps, all the b.s. that's put into it for only a hundred calories. I need my butter sliced out for me in 100 calories too, please. And my sugar, packaged neatly in 100 cal qty, and my milk and my cereal, and my cake and my beef and you name it. I want tiny 100 calorie hotdogs (ugh!). I'm retarded. I can't do it by myself. I need help.
    I wish they'd come up with labels of things that take 100 calories to chew and digest. That might come in handier.
    (sorry I used the word 'retarded' - I don't mean to offend)
    I have used WW products and those are ridiculously packaged.
    End of moment of insanity.

  18. My thoughts are a bit complex/involve stories, so I'll be posting about it on Monday (I already have my weekend post).

  19. packaging, packaging, packaging.

    It is killing us in so many ways!

  20. (1) I'm one of those people who look at the six teensy crackers inside a 5 inch square package and feel ripped off. Since there's more air than product inside, I feel like that's whay I'm paying for. So I don't buy those things.

    (2) Most people will consume more of something that is bite-sized than they will in its regular portion size. For example, I might be able to hold myself to a single normal sized Reeces Cup; but I'll eat half a bag of those bite-sized babies. Likewise with donut holes.

    (3) I tend to not do "light" foods because they aren't nearly as satisfying as the real thing. I eat twice as much and I'm still craving, so what's the point? Instead I focus on a smaller portion of something I'm going to really enjoy and savour. Ultimately I consume fewer calories and yet get more out of it.

  21. I bought some of those 100-calorie packs of cupcakes once. They looked like little toy cupcakes for a dollhouse! To make it seem like more, I put them on a little saucer and cut them into quarters. Then my boyfriend came home and saw it and I was so completely embarrassed. I felt ridiculous and decided to go for an entire, real cupcake next time I wanted one. Life's too short for doll food! I'd rather have a real cupcake once or twice a week than a 100-calorie pack every day.

  22. I agree with absolutely everything you said. The only 100 calorie packs I keep is microwave popcorn. It really is just about the right amount.

  23. Although it seems like 100 calorie packs are a great idea...they're not as amazing as they seem!


  24. I find I can't eat just one.

    And the amount of waste they create is ridiculous.

    And then the stomach aches that come with eating so much processed crap.


  25. I can't stand them - but mostly for the taste. And the cost. I am all about real food.

    Although if you gave me a cookie right now, I wouldn't complain.

  26. Been there, done that, regretted it...Just last week I bought a pack of chocolate rolls with six in the box. All six were gone by the end of the evening!

  27. None of those in this house :) Try to stick to whole foods and away from packages mostly. About the only packaged treat we have around is Kashi bars which are loaded with fiber and protein and so satisfying it's easy to stop at one :) I like to have all that room in my pantry now for hide and seek with the kids ;)

  28. Who PAID for the study?

  29. I bought a box of those Hostess 100 calorie cupcakes after a blog I like mentioned them and said they were good. I was curious! And I guess they're not terrible. It's been so many years since I had a "real" Hostess cupcake that I don't know how they compare. Other than they don't have the little spiral of white icing across the top, which I seem to remember being my favorite part as a kid.

    I'd rather just have a real cupcake, though. Something about the artificial ingredients in these makes the roof of my mouth feel funny. :)

  30. I can't afford to buy portion controlled anything, so I can avoid temptation quite easily. Of course, if it gets to be too much, I bake, then I have to find someone I can give it away to.

  31. I started buying packs of the smallest plastic ziplock bags at the dollar store. Then I just conquer and divide the bigger bags of snacks myself. We always did this in the past for treats at the movies, but now I keep them around all the time. Teresa in Tennessee

  32. What do you mean you've turned down freebie offers before and we wouldn't even want to know what we've missed.

    We do. We do!!!

  33. This study says 100 calories packs make people eat more

  34. I agree with you 100%. The really sad thing is how many people feel that a 100-calorie pack of Hostess cupcakes is healthy eating. :(

    The only ones I ever buy (and even this is rarely) is the South Beach cookies. They aren't great and they're overpriced, but sometimes I just want a cookie.

  35. Oh goodness. JUST today I made my very first purchase of 100-calorie snacks after eschewing them for so long. What appropriate timing for this post :)

  36. So at the store tonight, I very nearly bought 100 calorie Nutty Bars. Not because I especially love Nutty Bars, even though I kind of do, but because my dad and I used to eat them together with milk.

    However, I put them back on the shelf after realizing three things: 1) just because there were individually wrapped instead of in two-packs doesn't mean they're any more healthy. 2) they're overpriced. 3) I was about to make a food purchase based on nostalgia alone. :)

  37. Great comments, folks!

    PurpleGirl, you would think about purchasing food based on nostalgia? Gosh, that's terrible (said the woman who has been known to buy Lukcy Charms cereal 'cause of her fondness for it as a kid).

    And Charlie, thanks for the link! Will try to get around to updating the post at some point.

    (I don't take either of these studies too seriously--I think the real issue is how 100 calorie packs affect you personally. For most of us, they don't seem to help much! But if they help some folks with damage control, then whatever).

  38. So totally off comment you may shoot me, but does anyone have any good advice for stubborn Achilles' Tendonitis? Other than freezing some 100 calorie snacks to use as ice packs?

    I'm doing everything I'm 'supposed to and this f&*ker won't get any better. I'm about to start working out on it again and damn the consequences?

  39. Most of the 100 calorie packs have crap in them I don't eat anymore, ingredients that are like a drug to my body and I just can't stop eating them...but at least I've found your cheap appeasement gesture to keep my mind off 100 calorie packs of sugar and partially hydrogenated something

  40. I'm lazy (shockingly along with half of America) so I do buy the portion controlled sizes because in the AM when I'm packing my lunch and hubbies, the last thing I want to try and do is read a label. I keep a bowl on the counter of 2 point snacks that I did the calculations for ahead of time, so that I can easily put my lunch together and move on. So I'll only buy them on sale - but I can't do without them. I live for convenience ;-)

  41. my husband has taken to buying me a weekly treat of the tiniest pot of ice cream (good quality real food ice-cream!). I think I might prefer a full pint to avoid packaging waste-but ice cream is not a trigger food for me. But I find the pre packaging less annoying than buying a small container (eg of yogurt) and finding the recommended serving size is given as about 2/3rds of the container

  42. You guys are all crazy. I think that 100 calorie packs are fabulous. No they do not always taste just like the real thing, but they are yummy and if you are working and working out on a regular basis and are supposed to be eating 5 times a day, they are very convienent to have around. so far the only 100 calorie packs i don't like are the ones that i don't like the product in its regular form either. Maybe they aren't for everyone. But i say yay to the smart peopla at Nabisco, Hostess and Quaker who came up with this great idea.

  43. The 100 Calorie packs have a lot of the same ingredients that the originals do (give or take a few choices). But the only negative thing i would say about these "dream packs" are that they contain enriched flower, which is not any good for cutting fat!

  44. 100-calorie snacks/foods have been proven bad for you because...

    For example, a 100-calorie chocolate package. You're eating that teeny tiny sliver of chocolate, then your body gets gushed with insulin so now it's ridiculously impossible to cut down fat. It'll mooch off nutrients and you'll be even hungrier.

    Psh, 100-calorie foods. More like 100 percent scam.

  45. I stumbled across this when I googled 100 calorie packs after inhaling two of them. I spent a small fortune on this scam and I seriously think I eat more calories now. The portions are ridiculous and still full of crap ingredients. For the time being I'll eat healthy food in normal portions and waste less money on these crappy little imposters. (some of them do taste realllly good though) IMO, don't waste time,money, or calories on using a package to control your portions of stuff you probably shouldn't be eating any way.

  46. I personally love 100 calorie snacks...but they are small. I found this site that lets you build your own recipes which saves a ton of money and means you actually like what the snack is! www.100caloriebags.com.

  47. Ha. This was a 2008 post... I just recently discovered 100 calorie packs. Well, I like 'em! I don't have the self control. I don't buy cookies or chips. I am not a sweet tooth kinda gal. Every blue moon I want something sweet if I buy cookies my kiddo will eat them all in one sitting and there wont be any for me when I crave something sweet and its not healthy for him. Now its all in my head sure the cookies are small but its a good handful compared to 2 cookies for like 130 calories. So I feel I get more out of the 100 calorie pack. I don't eat for five packs a day. I might eat two maybe three! If I go to the movies better than a tub of popcorn swimming in butter. They work for me :) they are a snack not a omg I'm hungry ... usually its after dinner or for lunch. Sorry for typos on my phone and I really don't feel like going back ...lol


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