“A chip like no snack aisle has seen (or taste bud has tasted),” says the website for Popchips, one of a burgeoning breed of salty-snack alternatives and pitched by Katy Perry and Bruno Mars. Popped snacks are made of corn, rice, potato, chickpeas, or a mix of those, and most are subjected to heat and pressure until they pop. No frying, no baking, “no wiping your greasy chip hand on your jeans.” The clear message: Popped snacks are more healthful.
But are they? Not really. Although all have less fat per serving than typical fried potato chips, some have more fat than do baked potato chips and about the same number of calories. Olde Cape Cod multigrain has 420 milligrams of sodium, more than the amount in typical cheese puffs, potato chips, or pretzels. (The chart below pits the nutrition of a popped snack against that of other snack foods.) Hummus popped snacks at least have slightly more fiber than most others in the category: 3 grams per serving.
The tested popped snacks weren’t different enough in quality for our tasters to rank all of them by taste. But among kettle chips, PopCorners and Popchips are better than the rest, and Quaker is worse. The barbecue snacks are very similar, so buy by price. The hummus and multigrain snacks taste mostly of their seasonings. The Ratings include scores for nutrition (based on calories, fat, sodium, sugars, and other factors) as well as taste descriptions of each product.
Bottom line. Popped snacks may sound good for you, but they’re still a member of the snack aisle. Buy one whose taste appeals, and check prices, which range from 35 cents to $1 per serving.
This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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