DIY 100-Calorie Packs
About four years ago I did a stint at Weight Watchers. What I liked about the program was that it worked – it forced me to think about every single thing I put in my mouth and I dropped the weight in about three months.
What I didn’t like so much was attending the weekly weigh-in meetings. They were long. They were rah rah. And they mostly seemed to be about hawking goods or services rather than providing genuinely useful suggestions.
Somewhat ironically, nearly every meeting would end with a free sample and coupon for some new diet snack.
Since this was the beginning of the 100-calorie pack phenomenon, they were frequently the snack sample du jour. Most of them tasted fine — I even bought a couple boxes — but I didn’t like getting so little for my money, even with a coupon.
Neither did this Consumer Reports 100-calorie pack reviewer who concluded: “If you can buy snacks in their regular packages and use an ounce of willpower, your wallet will stay fatter.”
Logical? Yes, but it’s that “ounce of willpower” that seems to be the sticking point. After all, if I’d possessed an ounce of willpower, I probably wouldn’t have needed to join WW in the first place.
So I tried a little experiment to see if I could encourage my willpower a bit and save a penny or two:
The contenders: One box of Cheez-It® 100 Calorie Right Bites (on sale for $2.50) versus one box of Cheez-It® Reduced Fat Crackers (on sale for $1.99):
Taste. The crackers in both boxes tasted exactly the same – slightly drier and more salty than regular Cheez-Its, but fine for filling the snack void. The ingredients listed on the boxes are also the same.
Yield. The prepackaged 100-calorie box contains six snack packs with 22-25 crackers in each for $.42 per pack. The regular box produced 16 snack packs of 22 crackers each for about $.12 per pack.
Savings. Doing it myself saved three and a half times what I paid for the pre-packaged snacks. And the really good news is that this works for pretty much any snack – nuts, pretzels, chips, popcorn, cereal, dried fruit, etc.
I’m guessing the how-to here is pretty self-evident but just in case — here’s the lowdown:
To make any snack a 100-calorie pack you’ll need:
- Bag or box of your favorite snack
- Zip-top snack or sandwich bags
- Calculator (Optional if you’re good at math. Not optional for me.)
1. Determine the number of snacks per bag. Look at the nutrition label on the package and find the recommended serving size and the number of calories. (For the reduced fat Cheez-Its, it lists a serving as 29 crackers for 130 calories.)
If the calorie count listed is already 100 — your work is done. Just put however many snacks it says you get for 100 calories into the zip-top snack bags. Easy peasy.
If not, grab your calculator – here’s where the math comes in. First find the calories per cracker by dividing the number of crackers per suggested serving (29) into the calories (130) – in this case 4.5 calories per cracker.
Then divide 100 (total calories) by 4.5 (calories per cracker) to get the number for the 100-calorie pack – in this case, 22.
2. Count the snacks out and seal them in the bags. I promise this goes really fast. It’s even something kids love to help with, though you may have to factor in a few extra for on-the-job sampling. Store the filled packs in the original container.
Hello instant portion control.
Counting out my snacks first works great for helping me avoid whole-box disaster scenarios — I’m the type of gal who can easily consume an entire container of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins in a sitting (they are ‘reduced fat’ after all).
Used snack bags go back into the container as well. Not only do the empty bags let me know exactly how many 100s of calories I’ve consumed, but they also can be reused for the next batch.
Final note: I presented this tip at my final Weight Watcher’s meeting and won the prize for “tip of the week”: a box of 100-calorie packs. Who says there’s no such thing as poetic justice?