2007 -2009 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Background: Diet foods have been packaged, marketed, and sold to consumers since before the 1950s, and their popularity has steadily increased ever since. Low calorie pre-packaged snack foods give a single portion of tasty food, supplying consumers with an easy way to maintain healthy snacking habits.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the consumption of low-calorie snack foods in relation to weight loss and maintenance on young adults.
Design: A survey questioning gender, physical status, diet and exercise plans, and snack food consumption of young adults.
Subjects/ Setting: Undergraduate students (n=200), 100 females (BMI 22.9 ± 3.7) and 100 males (BMI 24.9 ± 4.0), on the University of Kentucky’s campus over a three week period from January to February 2009.
Main Outcome Measures: Weight status, low to high calorie snack food consumption ratio, dietary and exercise habits, and low calorie snack food opinions.
Analysis: Pearson correlation coefficients and paired comparison were used to test for significant differences between weight loss/ maintenance and low calorie snack food consumption.
Results: 88.78% of females and 52.12% of males reported consuming low calorie snack foods. More females than males lost or maintained their weight over a calendar year, followed a well balanced meal plan, and reported low calorie snack foods as fulfilling their cravings (i.e. salty, sweet, sour, etc.). A moderately strong and positive correlation (r = 0.78) was found between weight loss/ maintenance and participants who were adequate (i.e. answered “yes” or met USDA standards) in at least 3/4 of the following categories: had greater than or equal to a 1:1 low calorie to high calorie snack food consumption ratio, followed a well balanced meal plan, exercised regularly, or fulfilled a craving after consuming low calorie snack foods.
Conclusion: Low calorie snack foods can be used as an effective weight loss tool in conjunction with balanced diet and exercise.