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Dreyer's ice cream is rolling out mid-calorie goodies.
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Date published: 9/28/2012
AP Business Writer
NEW YORK--Nonfat cheese that tastes like plastic. Low-calorie soda that leaves a bitter aftertaste. Sugar-free brownies that crumble like Styrofoam.
Dieters have learned an important lesson: When you take the fat and calories out of your favorite treats, you sometimes have to say goodbye to the taste too.
But snack brands like Dreyer's/Edy's ice cream, Hershey's chocolate and Lay's potato chips are trying to solve this age-old dieter's dilemma by rolling out so-called mid-calorie goodies that have more fat and calories than the snacks of earlier diet crazes but less than the original versions. They're following the lead of soda companies like Pepsi and Dr Pepper that introduced mid-calorie drinks last year.
The mid-calorie trend is hitting at a time when companies that make sugary and salty treats are being blamed for the country's expanding waistlines. The problem is that the same things that make snacks taste good--sugar, salt, calories--also make them fattening. And many Americans don't want to sacrifice taste at snack time. Shaving a few calories enables companies to market their cakes, cookies and chips as healthier without the stigma of bad taste that goes along with some low-fat products.
The mid-calorie trend is a toned-down version of the "light" craze that started in the 1990s. Back then, "low fat" or "no fat" was all the rage. But the products often fizzled.
"Originally, a lot of the diet stuff just wasn't good," says Richard George, chair of the department of food marketing at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "People would say you could throw away contents and eat the box. But they've gotten better."
The new era of diet food started in the last decade. In 2007, companies began offering 100-calorie packs of popular snacks like Oreos cookies and Twinkies cakes.
Turns out, there's some science behind all this calorie slashing.
Reducing a nominal number of calories in your diet each day--even from that morning coffee run or afternoon visit to the vending machine for chips--is an effective way to battle obesity, says David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University.
He says "if you typically have a 200-calorie cookie and you have a 160-calorie cookie instead" it won't make you hungrier at the next meal. And since obesity can be caused by as few as 20 excess calories a day, Levitsky says cutting a few at each meal makes a big difference.