I broke the cardinal rule of healthful snacking the other night.
Can you guess what I did?
I was watching TV when I remembered I had a bag of dill pickle potato chips in the kitchen. The thought of a crunchy snack motivated me to leave the living room. I grabbed the bag on the counter, opened it and carried it to the couch.
Actually, then I did a couple of things wrong. I ate out of the bag and I watched TV while eating. This was mindless snacking at its best.
During a commercial, I noticed the bag was feeling lighter in my hand. I paused. I realized that if I didn’t slow down, I would eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting.
Did I mention this was a large bag?
How many servings had I just eaten? I flipped over the bag to check the Nutrition Facts label. The bag had eight servings at 150 calories per serving. I had eaten about three servings at 150 calories per serving. That’s 450 calories.
If a person eats 100 extra calories per day, theoretically that person can gain about 10 pounds in a year. A pound of body fat equals about 3,500 calories.
Let’s do the math about potential weight gain after eating 450 calories extra per day. No, let’s not do the math.
OK, I did the math. Gaining 45 pounds in a year from excessive daily snacking is not conducive to good health. I would need a new wardrobe, too.
I tightened a twist tie on the bag and brought it back to the kitchen, well out of my reach. Then I got a glass of water, which has zero calories. I trudged back to the living room.
What should I have done to manage my snack intake?
I should have put a serving of those tasty, crunchy chips in a bowl. Then I should have savored them one by one instead of going on a munching fiesta. This particular snack noted 17 chips per serving.
I also could have opted for the crunchy carrots and apples in my refrigerator.
In flipping over the potato chip bag, I discovered that the company was ahead of its time.
It had the brand new Nutrition Facts label, which will be required by July 2020 on food packaging for all major food manufacturers who sell more than $10 million in food yearly. By July 2021, you will see the new label on all food products required to carry nutrition labels regardless of the annual sales of the food manufacturer.
The new Nutrition Facts labels have some key changes from the previous labels. First, you will notice the number of calories per serving more clearly. Calories are listed in a larger bold font.
The serving size also is more prominent, and serving sizes for many foods have been updated.
Maybe that’s why I felt a little guilty. This was easy to read.
We used to have to make some calculations to determine calorie and nutrient content on some types of foods. For example, previously the label on a 20-ounce bottle of soda might have noted that it had 2.5 servings. If you drank the entire bottle, you would have to “do the math” and multiply calories and other nutrients by 2.5.
Now, a 20-ounce bottle will be listed as having one serving. This might be a reality check if you drink regular soda. A 20-ounce bottle of regular soda has about 240 calories.
This is a test. How many pounds could you gain in a year from a daily bottle of pop above your daily calorie needs? That would be more than 24 pounds.
Remember that water has no calories.
We also have some new items listed on all upcoming nutrition labels. One of them is added sugars. Many foods, such as fruit juice and milk, contain some sugar naturally. The new required declaration lets us know how much sugar is added to the foods to enhance flavor and other attributes.
For example, that 20-ounce bottle of cola has 65 grams of “added sugars.” That’s about 17 teaspoons.
While calcium and iron remain on the new label, vitamins A and C no longer are required because they are not nutrients of concern for most people. We can get these nutrients by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Potassium and vitamin D are the newest additions to the label.
Potassium helps our muscles, including our all-important heart muscle, contract and relax. Vitamin D plays a variety of roles, including keeping our bones strong. Other researchers have linked vitamin D to helping prevent certain types of cancer, diabetes and depression, and keeping our immune system strong.
Now you will know the percent of the daily vitamin D you are getting from the food you choose.
Keep in mind that we all have room for some “treats” in our diet, whether of the savory, crunchy type or the type that satisfies a sweet tooth. The new labels will help us be better-informed consumers.
Here’s a crunchy snack recipe that is much lower in calories, fat and sodium than most packaged snacks. Popcorn is a whole-grain food that provides fiber.
Savory Chili Popcorn
4 cups air-popped popcorn
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. chili powder (or to taste)
Dash garlic powder
In a bowl, drizzle popcorn with melted butter. Mix seasonings in a smaller bowl and sprinkle over popcorn. Serve immediately. Makes two (2-cup) servings. Each serving has 110 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 45 milligrams sodium.
(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)