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Small snack packs get eaten more often

August 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
When you're looking for something quick and easy to eat, those 90- to 100-calorie snack packs may seem like a sensible choice. They're certainly popular, with 150 different options on the market and sales of more than $200 million last year. Here's a look at whether they're a good choice for a weight-loss diet.The Jackman family has four growing kids, and when they're on the go: "These days, it's quite easy just to go the easy route with fast foods," said health-conscious dad Bryce Jackman.

But they admit they've paid for their choice by packing on the pounds. Now they're looking to make a life change, and these 100-calorie snack packs are appealing. Dietitian Traci Thompson says they may help with portion control, but they still aren't the healthiest choice.

"I would consider these to be foods that have calories with very little nutrients, so empty calories," said Traci Thompson, American Dietetic Association. Thompson says these snacks are often smaller, thinner, wafer versions of the originals -- and that doesn't always satisfy.

"Whenever I eat the snack packs, I always want to have more," said Kaitlynn Jackman.

In a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research, 140 students were gathered to watch television. Some were primed about weight and body-size issues. Others were not. Then they were all offered small or large bags of chips. The "weight-primed" students with small bags ended up eating twice as many chips as the group with big bags.

"Only about a quarter of those in the study opened the larger bags," said Thompson. "About 59 percent opened the smaller snack packs and ended up consuming more because they opened more packages."

The food companies say these products are designed for those who want the taste of traditional snacks -- with a set amount of calories -- and the idea is to eat just one pack at a time. Thompson acknowledges the packs may work for certain families.

"Perhaps [for] families working toward cutting back on their portion sizes, where parents still have control over one [pack] going into the lunch bag," said Thompson.

But for the rest of us? Fresh fruits and veggies, a handful of nuts or a low-fat granola bar may make more sense. The Jackmans believe it's what's best for them for a couple reasons.

"Dollar for dollar, it's much cheaper doing the natural route and it's better for you," said Bryce Jackman.

 

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