Tuesday, September 9, 2008

100-Calorie Packs are Not the Answer

     Everyone's been talking about the 100-calorie packs and how great they are for dieters. Now that school is back in session, maybe you're in need of some quick snacks that you can buy on the go, and these mini-portions of junk food sound tempting.  After all, they're only 100 calories, right?
     Put aside the fact that the idea of snacks in small-portion packaging is anything but innovative. Before the days of "super-size," those were normal servings. Ignore the fact that most bags of chips and cookies should probably be that size.
     Ignore the environmental effects of the enormous amount of packaging that is being used.
     Then consider this. College Candy recently posted about healthy snacks, and while I generally agree with several of their suggestions, I take issue with their assumption that if you ate from a "real bag of Ruffles you'd end up eating way more," so you should eat from these 100-calorie packs.
     Research has found that's actually untrue, because "large packages triggered concern of overeating and conscious efforts to avoid doing so, while small packages were perceived as innocent pleasures, leaving the consumers unaware that they were overindulging." (ScienceDaily
     Some of the study participants had just been weighed and given body image surveys, so if they were prone to feeling bad about their weight, these feelings may have been even more pronounced. They may have felt like the other participants were watching them and judge for their consumption. I have felt that way, so I know others have as well.
     So, it's not true that you'll eat less if you eat from 100-calorie packs. But, there are more individual factors to consider. If you're not just watching calories, but trying to eat healthfully, remember that even eating a small amount of high-fat or sugary food will make your body crave more. It's the long run that matters. 100-calorie packs add up.

     But if you are one of those people who worries about digging into a big bag of chips in front of others, at least know that you are not alone. And if you're not trying to give up junk food, but feel hesitant to eat from a big bag, it might be a good, small goal to set for yourself. If you feel judgmental vibes, try to convince yourself that you're imagining it... because you ARE. 

     It may seem like I've contradicted myself, but I'm trying to recognize that the answer is not the same for everyone. If you're trying to become more healthy, these snacks aren't going to do it for you. If you're trying to lose weight and normally eat a whole bag at one sitting, maybe they're a good small step. And if you suffer from disordered eating, or just bad body image, maybe the real issue is you don't want to look like you're eating too much, and if that's true, it might be a good idea to think about the negative effects of that kind of mindset on your life. 

     Let me know what situation you fit!


Megan said...

Thanks for writing again! I think I fall into the category where I am not trying to give up junk food but work on moderation and portion control

Angelique said...

Great post!

I think that the key is to listen to your body and stop eating mindlessly, whether you're scarfing down chips from a Weekender bag or a 100-calorie pack.

I've been really working on getting to know my stomach and gain a better understanding of when I'm full but not gorged. For me, it's a fine line.

Let's face facts -- the 100-calorie packs are just marketing gimmicks. Honestly, though, if I were in sales, I'd start a 101-calorie pack with the slogan: "What's one more calorie?"

Alternatively, how about a 99-calorie pack with the slogan: "One less calorie to count."