Better snacking

September 05, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

As Americans become more conscious of their growing waistlines and high-fat diets, the snack food industry also has expanded - offering more and varied diet snack food choices.

Almost monthly, it seems, there's a new snack promising fewer calories, fewer carbs and less fat.

Zero fat Pringles? Fat-free Fig Newtons? Lays Light Chips? Have snack food companies really come to the rescue with satisfying lower-calorie and lower-fat munchies? Or are these "light options" flavorless versions of traditional snacks?

The Herald-Mail decided to find out how some of these lower-fat and lower-calorie foods actually taste by asking readers to participate in a test them.


Taste-testers sampled dried apricots, Right Bites Baked Snack Cheese Crackers, Fat Free Pringles, Breyers Light ice cream, Quakes Rice Snacks, and Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps.

Participants were asked to rank the lower-calorie and lower-fat snack foods compared to the original varieties. The rankings are on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 1 means the taster preferred the regular snack. A score of 5 means the taster preferred the lower calorie snack. Part of the the nutritional information is given as percent daily value, which is the amount of the daily limit as recommended by the U.S. Department of agriculture. Values are based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

· Dried Apricots

Average rating: 2.2

Tasters were offered dried apricots to replace fruity, chewy, high-sugar snacks such as gummy bears. Three of five respondents gave the apricots a 1 rating, saying the dried fruit was too tart, sour or chewy.

One taster gave the snack a 5 rating: "The apricots had a very fruity, natural taste compared to the gummy bears. They are also healthier." The two respondents who favored the apricots said they would eat the dried fruit in place of chewy granola bars, sugar-coated, fruit-flavored jelly chews or other candies.

Nutritional information: One serving of gummy bears contains 130 calories and no fat. One serving of dried apricots has 110 calories and no fat. However, the apricots also provide a full serving of fruit, 15 percent daily value of potassium and 8 percent daily value of dietary fiber.

· Right Bites Baked Snack Cheese Crackers

Average rating: 3.4

Most respondents said Keebler's Right Bites definitely taste different than the original Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers. For some that was positive, for others it was a drawback.

"(Cheez-Its) taste greasier," said Angela Helfrick as she compared the two products. Those who liked the Right Bites taste said the lower-fat cheese crackers were "nice and crisp without the greasy aftertaste." Some tasters said they liked how the Right Bites tasted but still prefer Cheez-Its. They said they preferred the "rich, cheesy taste" of the original version.

Nutrition Information: A serving of Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers contains 160 calories and 12 percent daily value of fat. One pouch of Right Bites has 100 calories and 5 percent of daily recommended fat.

· Breyers Light Ice Cream (Neapolitan flavor)

Average rating: 3.75

Tasters sampled the strawberry, chocolate and vanilla neapolitan flavor of Breyers and Breyers Light ice cream. Most respondents said there was not much of a taste difference, although the texture was less "creamy" in the light version.

"The lower (calorie) ice cream was whipped and fluffy. The taste was a little bland," said one taster. Another said they liked the taste of the light version and would choose it in place of cookies.

Nutrition information: A half cup serving of regular Breyers ice cream, neapolitan flavor contains 130 calories and 11 percent of the daily recommended fat intake. The same portion of Breyers light, also in neapolitan, has 100 calories and about 5 percent percent daily value of fat.

· Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps

Average rating: 4.6

Taste-testers said the Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps produced by Nabisco were one of the tastiest lower-calorie and lower-fat foods they sampled. Four of the six tasters gave the snack a 5 saying they liked the crunch, texture and taste of this food.

Nabisco is one of several brands that are producing snack packs with 100 calories or less and less than 3 grams of fat. Several of their products are available in such packs.

Tasters commented that they liked the serving-size portion of the thin crisps. A serving size of regular Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip cookies is three cookies or about 33 grams. A 100-calorie pack is 23 grams, but snackers get more than a handful of small, circular cookie wafers. Tasters said they would choose Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps in place of other cookies, brownies or other chocolatey, sweet snacks.

Nutrition information: A serving of regular Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip cookies has 160 calories and 12 percent of the recommended daily fat intake. A pack of Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps is 100 calories and has 5 percent daily value of fat.

· Fat Free Pringles

Average rating: 4.2

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