Ultra-low-calorie foods allow bingeing without guilt

September 16, 2011
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Ultra-low-calorie foods allow bingeing without guilt

When’s the last time you were guiltily scraping your way to the bottom of an ice creamcarton and noticed this message: “150 calories per 1 pint”?

Yes, per pint.

Foods aimed at helping you slim down have been around for decades, but a recent wave of ultra-low calorie products — such as the 150-calorie per pint dessert Artic Zero — is making a direct appeal to our national sense of gluttony.

“What we’re seeing here is a strategy that says Americans like to stuff their faces,” said food industry analyst Phil Lempert. “And these mean we don’t have to sacrifice.”

With two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese, health officials have long warned that ballooning portion sizes are a major factor. Now food manufacturers are testing whether the desire for big servings can make peace with our need to shed pounds — or at least make big profits.

“It’s fine to eat one serving of ice cream, but I can’t remember the last time I sat down with a pint and ate half a cup,” said Amit Pandhi, CEO of Arctic Zero Inc., whose pints of “ice cream replacement” prominently feature the 150-calorie message. “We feel like a serving is an entire pint.”

Similarly, commercials for MGD 64, a 64-calorie beer from Chicago-based MillerCoors being heavily marketed this year, pits a tiny martini or petite glass of wine against a cool, full bottle of brew. Meanwhile, the website for its competitor, Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Select 55, promises no pain and no gain, boasting that you can burn off the product’s 55 calories with — ready? — a 54-minute nap.

Tofu Shirataki noodles from California-based House Foods America Corp., offers two 20-calorie servings per 8-ounce package, but “most people eat the whole bag for a meal,” said Yoko Difrancia, the company’s marketing supervisor. “The whole bag is more realistic.”

Which means that if you were feeling a need to binge, you could pound down a pile of noodles, a couple brews and a pint of “ice cream” all for 300 calories — the same as a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Sales growing

Consumers seem to be buying it. Sales of Arctic Zero, introduced in 2009, have grown 15 to 20 percent per month for the past 18 months, Pandhi said.

via Courier-Journal

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