Q: I'm starting to see a lot of single-serving 100-calorie snacks on the supermarket shelves. Do you think those are a good idea?
A: You're right. One of the hot trends in food marketing is the 100-calorie snack pack. More than 100 of these products now line your grocers' shelves, including chips, cookies, crackers, popcorn, yogurt and even some soft drinks.
One of the pros of this packaging craze is that you don't have to take the time to check the nutrition facts label to view the calorie content - all the work and math is done for you.
Also, the pre-portioned package may help you control the number of times your hand reaches into the bag or box, assuming that you can stop after eating only one package.
Another advantage of these 100-calorie packages is that you don't have to buy special diet foods. These are regular foods - not usually the diet version of favorite snacks. However, remember that the food manufacturers want you to feel like you've gotten a lot in that little package, which sometimes takes creative marketing. It may mean leaving out a high-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie ingredient to meet the 100-calorie goal. For example, some cookies may have fewer chocolate chips or lack the filling you're accustomed to eating.
Oftentimes, "convenience packaging" costs a lot more, so you have to ask yourself if it's worth the price. If you think you may want to package 100-calorie snack sacks yourself using plastic bags instead of paying the cost of convenience, just make sure you do the math and measure (or count) accurately so you're not loading the bag with added unwanted calories, fat or sugar.
Another real disadvantage of these little packaged products is that they are often filled mostly with empty calories that are neither nutritious choices nor likely to be satisfying. Better examples of 100-calorie snacks packed with good nutrition are a high-fiber apple, orange or banana or a few tablespoons of nuts or sunflower seeds. For a chewy snack, have a small handful of dried fruit in place of candy. Here are some specific examples of 100-calorie snacks you can make yourself:
¢ One celery stalk with 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
¢ 6 ounces fat-free yogurt with 1/3 cup raspberries
¢ 3 small plums, 1 cup mango chunks, or 1/2 medium cantaloupe
¢ A 5-ounce tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and 1/4 cup fat-free dressing
¢ 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 5 strawberries
¢ 2 ounces of lean roast beef or half a low-fat turkey sandwich
¢ An orange and five dry-roasted nuts
¢ A small baked potato with 1/2 cup salsa and 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
¢ 28 grapes (try them frozen)
¢ Half a "finger" of string cheese with four whole-wheat crackers
Because we're a grab-and-go and eat-on-the-run society, it may not be a bad idea to keep a few prepackaged 100-calorie snacks on hand for emergency munching to help you get past a sudden craving when that snack attack hits. Why undo several weeks or months of building healthy habits with an uncontrollable urge to crunch?
However, relying on prepackaged goodies as part of your daily diet isn't the best idea if they are nothing more than tasty little packages of refined sugar and saturated fat.
Q: Are the color additives found in foods safe?
A: According to the FDA and Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, they are safe when used properly. Absolute safety is impossible to achieve for any substance. Here are some facts:
¢ Color additives are regulated by the FDA. This includes food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices. They are approved by the FDA and must be used in compliance with the approved uses, specifications and restrictions.
¢ Permitted color additives are in two categories. One is "certifiable." They are man-made from petroleum and coal sources. The product must be "certified" by the FDA and issued a lot number. Then it can be used legally. The second is "exempt." These are from plant, animal or mineral sources.
They don't require certification but must comply with usage regulations.
¢ A color approved for one use doesn't mean it can be used for something else. For example, color additives are not approved for tattoos.
¢ Allergic reactions are rare but possible. One example is FD&C Yellow No. 5 which can cause itching and hives. The label must list this additive so those sensitive to it can avoid using the product.
¢ FDA can go after violators. They issue warning letters, detentions, import alerts or even seize products in violation of regulations.
¢ Adverse reactions to color additives are monitored by the FDA. Report problems to your local FDA district office, which can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yu889x.