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What's Really In This: Shortbread Cookie 100-Cal Snack Pack

The new 100-calorie snack packs are all the diet rage. It is nearly impossible to walk down a grocery aisle without seeing some product that now comes in 100-calorie snack packs. Think about your last grocery shopping trip and the number of new products on the shelf advertising the lower calorie snacks. There are 100-calorie wheat thins, cheese nips, Oreo granola bars, jell-o pudding cups, Little Debbie snacks, etc. But are these snacks any healthier or diet-friendly than the regular calorie version?

Here is an examination of one of the 100-calorie snack items: the cookie crisp Lorna Doone Shortbread. I am sure many of you will remember the original Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookie from when you were kids. I have fond memories of going to my grandparents' house in the summer and my grandmother would always have cookies for all the grandkids. Many times they were Lorna Doone cookies. Now Nabisco has developed the 100-calorie version of this long time sweet treat.

It is time to compare the original cookie to the new 100 calorie snack. The serving size for the original Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookie is 29 grams (4 cookies) the new version is 21 grams. It is hard to tell the exact number of crackers that come in each bag of the cookie crisp but I would guess it is around 10 - 15. The calories of course in this new cookie are 100 compared to 140 calories in the original version. There is half the amount of fat in the new snack cookies (3 grams total) than the original (6 grams total). When it comes to saturated fat, both still contain some with the new version containing 1.5 grams and the old 2 grams. The overall difference in the total fat may make the snack version a little better than the original but remember some fat in the diet is good and the fat to limit to less than 10 grams a day is saturated which both still contain. The sugar and protein content of both are exactly the same. Here is a list of the ingredients listed on the label (not in order of what is on package label) and a short explanation of each.

ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID)   
Whole wheat flour that has been processed and had vitamins/mineral added

PALM OIL   
Derived from the fruit of palm trees; high in saturated fat

SUGAR   
Sweetener

CORN FLOUR   
Corn that has been dried and pulverized into a flour

SALT   
Seasoning and flavor

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP   
Syrup made from corn that has been proceed into a sugar

BAKING SODA   
Causes product to rise

CORNSTARCH   
Thickening agent

SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER)   
Used to make dough less sticky and aid in rising process

NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR   
Extracts of flavors either man-made or natural to give product flavor
 
There are a few big red flags in this list of ingredients, high fructose corn syrup is just one. But here is the real question: is the 100-calorie snack cracker really the healthy option that the marketers would like to you believe? The answer is no. It is a great option for an occasional treat just as most people would treat the original cookie. However the slick labeling makes people believe that because it is only 100 calories, it must be good for me. This is not the case. If you want a healthy, sweet less than 100-calorie snack idea try a piece of fruit or some trail mix. These would be much better alternatives for daily snacking than the new 100 calorie products.

Grete R. Hornstrom is a Clinical Dietitian who is currently specializing in pediatric care. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Kent State University, a Master of Arts in Wellness Management from Ball State University, and a Master of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University. She has worked with overweight children and adults, recreational and elite athletes, chronically ill children, and every day people on developing nutrition plans and healthy lifestyle changes. In addition she has worked with recreational teams, high school teams, and college teams educating them on the importance of nutrition and performance. She has completed one marathon and three half marathons in the last two years. Her newest sport of choice is cycling.

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