When Healthy Snacking Gets Dangerous: "The Snackwell Effect"

Let’s set the scene: it’s the early 1980s and the “war on fat” has just began. The government, citing now-debunked research, decides that in order to be healthy, people need to reduce their fat consumption and focus on eating lower fat foods. 

The snack industry, of course, sees an opportunity here. 

They take their higher fat products, reduce the fat content (in many cases just replacing it with more sugar), and market these products as “low fat foods”. 

Consumers stroll through the snack aisle and think,

“Man, I really want some cookies, but I know I shouldn’t be eating them. Maybe I’ll just forgo the Oreos and get these healthy, Low Fat Snackwell Cookies instead. Win-win! Damn, I’m good at grocery shopping!”

And that is how the "The Snackwell Effect" came to be.

Our shopper, sitting down that night for an episode of Married with Children, grabs the box of cookies. 

But, instead of eating her usual 5 Oreos, she chomps away at the “healthy” Low Fat Snackwells and ends up eating a full 15 cookies.

"The Snackwell Effect" is a psychological phenomenon wherein people defeat the purpose of eating a lower calorie food by eating way more of it than they would its higher calorie counterpart, consuming more calories overall. 

In short, by buying a food they deem “healthier,” they end up being worse off than if they had just gone for the unhealthy food they wanted in the first place.

So next time you accidentally polish off that big bag of Skinny Pop or finish your second bowl of Go Lean Crunch Cereal, remember that, despite your best efforts, from a caloric standpoint, you were probably better off with the Jiffy Pop and the Lucky Charms.

Th is one of the many reasons why intelligent dieting is so important.