Potato chips are without a doubt one of the most popular junk foods in North America. What is it about that crunch, grease, and salt that makes them so appealing to the public? Grocery stores have whole aisles devoted to them, they are always served at parties, and they've wedged their way into being the perfect side dish for otherwise healthy sandwiches and subs.
But as much as society loves chips, they are just no good for the body. They are too high in salt, fried, and contain empty calories. Nevertheless, for so many people, giving up potato chips 'cold turkey' is simply not going to happen. They are a comfort food, a social food, and a commonly craved food.
Since I know that late-night snacks aren't going anywhere (society loves them too much), I have created this list to highlight some of the best and worst chip options. Next time you are buying chips, please consider my hierarchy when selecting a variety. Where are you on this list? Is there a chance you would consider moving down a level?
In order of worst to best:
Party mixes --> seasoned chips --> plain chips (+ 'baked' chips) --> organic tortilla chips --> organic plain --> root veggie chips --> lentil or bean chips --> salted nuts or seeds --> rice crackers --> organic popcorn --> kale chips
In order of worst to best (plus the reasons behind their rankings):
10. Party mixes - the worst snack food because of the gluten in the pretzels the fake 'cheeses', the heavy seasonings full of monosodium glutamate (MSG), and all sorts of other mystery ingredients.
9. Seasoned chips - BBQ, All-Dressed, Ketchup, etc are big no-nos because of their artificial flavorings, food dyes, and especially their chemicals like MSG.
8. Plain chips - If you want chips, plain or salt & vinegar are the cleanest varieties. They usually contain only three ingredients: salt, oil, and potatoes (and vinegar). Plain and simple, no hidden chemicals. Also clumped into spot #8 are any sort of 'baked' potato chip because even they often don't even contain potatoes (instead are made of potato 'flour' and a bunch of other fillers).
7. Organic tortilla chips - corn chips/tortillas are slightly worse than potato chips because corn is a common allergen. Lots of people are sensitive to corn without even knowing it. Since the majority of corn today is genetically modified, be sure to buy organic because that ensures that it is GMO-free (in Canada, organic means GMO-free).
6. Organic chips - potatoes are on the dirty dozen list, so technically any time you buy potatoes, they should be organic; same goes when buying potato chips.
5. Root veggie chips - you can buy all kinds of nifty root veggie chips like beet, sweet potato, and taro root chips. These will give you slightly more vitamins, but remember they are still junk food and don't count towards your five-to-ten fruits and vegetable servings a day!
4. Lentil or bean chips - you can buy chips made out of lentil and bean flours which give you a bit of protein during your munching. Some chips pack in a lot of seeds too, like flax and sesame, which is an added plus.
3. Nuts or seeds - how about snacking on (lightly) salted nuts or seeds instead? This snack will give you some protein and a good dose of healthy oils. However, portion control is super important when snacking on nuts and seeds. Aim for no more than a 1/4 cup when snacking.
2. Plan rice crackers - now while rice crackers are nutritionally empty (they just contain rice...), the reason why I placed them so high on the list is because rarely do people eat rice crackers alone. They are usually paired with either hummus, cheese, salsa, or guacamole... making this snack a source of protein and/or vegetables!
1. Organic popcorn - popcorn is awesome because it satisfies the salty craving and the crunch, but it won't break your caloric bank, which is important to consider because most times snacking is out of boredom or sociallness and not hunger. Organic is important to keep it GMO-free.
0. Kale chips - and the ultimate winner of the chip countdown is the kale chip. Kale chips are tasty, chip-like, and super nutritious (kale is one of the healthiest foods ever). I would eat kale chips everyday if I had access to them. Unfortunately, they are expense to buy...but thankfully they are extremely easy to make. Recipe coming soon!