Although chips shouldn’t be an ‘everyday’ food, you can find healthier versions of these salty snacks, says nutritionist Rose Carr.
While we haven’t yet managed to reclassify chips as a ‘health food’ – they should still remain an occasional treat food because of their high sodium and energy content – there are some better-for-you choices available on supermarket shelves. Here’s what you should be looking for this holiday season.
Standard potato chips contain around one-third total fat, with 10 per cent or more being saturated fat. The good news is there are now quite a few options available that are lower in total and saturated fat. This is largely due to chips being cooked in healthier oils, such as sunflower or canola oil. In fact, there are now several brands available with less than 5 per cent saturated fat (5g per 100g) – and your tastebuds won’t complain!
Due to the high amount of fat in most potato chips, they’re also high in energy. Most contain 2000–2300kJ per 100g. When you consider that small bags of chips are around 45–50g, it’s pretty easy to munch your way through 1000kJ. For most of us, that’s a lot of energy for a snack that’s not very satisfying or nutritious. Be aware that even the better choices are still high in energy (around 1600–2000kJ per 100g).
The amount of salt in chips varies widely between brands and varieties. Just remember, higher intakes of sodium are associated with high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. So, if the saturated fat doesn’t get you, the sodium just might! It’s best to be mindful of both the saturated fat and the sodium, as some products with less saturated fat actually contain more sodium, to preserve taste. If you have high blood pressure, be conscious of the sodium content, as one packet of chips might blow out your sodium intake for one day.
An increasingly common claim on chip packaging promotes a reduction in saturated fat, such as ‘75 per cent less saturated fat’. Less saturated fat is good, of course, but don’t assume that this means they are low in fat overall – they often aren’t. Make sure you look closely at the nutrition information panel.
How to choose
When selecting chips, decide on what nutritional attributes are most important to you. For example, if high blood pressure is a concern, seek out lower-sodium products; for those watching their weight, low energy will be a priority. But in all cases, a good rule of thumb is to look for chips with less than 5g saturated fat per 100g, followed by lower total fat. And, of course, be mindful of portion size – some larger ‘single serve’ packets may actually contain two or three serves.
What will they think of next? An enterprising designer in Iceland has created ‘Slim Chips’ – pieces of paper flavoured with tastes like peppermint, blueberry and sweet potato! The ‘chips’ are kilojoule-free and organic. We think we’ll stick to eating food!