Eat your vegetable chips

Some healthy-sounding snacks might not be any better for you than potato chips

Consumer Reports magazine: February 2013

Photo: Monica Buck

If you’re trying to score points by serving healthful snacks during a holiday party, NFL playoff game gathering, or other occasion, be warned: Some snacks that sound good for you might not be any better for you than potato chips. Our experts rated the taste and nutrition of four chips made from vegetables, five chips made from beans, five veggie snacks made mostly from potato flour, and four conventional potato chips.

How healthful? Overall, the veggie and bean chips scored Good for nutrition (with up to 5 grams of fiber); the other types, Fair (2 grams or fewer).

The veggie chips also have far less sodium than the potato-based products. Trader Joe’s Vegetable Root Chips, for example, have 35 milligrams of sodium per serving; Trader Joe’s Veggie Sticks have 300 milligrams—one-fifth of the daily sodium limit recommended for most adults by the American Heart Association.

But despite the parsnips, sweet potatoes, and taro pictured on packages of ­veggie chips—and boasts of a “full serving of vegetables in every ounce” in a couple of products—these aren’t crudités. They’re still fried and have plenty of fat and calories.

How tasty? Terra Exotic and Trader Joe’s sliced-veggie chips are crunchy and slightly sweet and salty. Food Should Taste Good’s chips are more crackerlike, with slightly sweet and earthy flavors.

The best bean chips, Boulder Canyon Natural Foods Hummus and Trader Joe’s Falafel, are made from chickpeas. Boulder Canyon chips have corn and cumin flavors, and Trader Joe’s have Indian-style curry spices. The other bean chips could use a dip to perk them up or cover flaws.

The potato-based veggie snacks are alike: crunchy and salty, with mild dehydrated potato and vegetable flavors.

Of the potato chips, Lays are more tender than most. Cape Cod chips have lots of potato flavor and less salt than others but a bit of stale-oil flavor. Pringles have a distinct, dehydrated-potato flavor. Ruffles are thicker than the rest.

Bottom line. If you’re trying to limit sodium and you favor a bit of fiber, look among the very good veggie or bean chips. Don’t bother paying a premium for Danielle Spicy Carrot Chips (they cost $4.39 for a 2-ounce bag and often tasted rancid in our tests). Skip potato-­based veggie snacks, which taste mediocre, cost more than potato chips, and offer no nutritional advantage.

What dip for chips?

Cedar’s Naturally Delicious Original and Cedar’s Simply Delicious Original hummus tasted very good in our last tests. Two tablespoons have 60 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 115 milligrams of sodium. Salsas are more waistline-friendly, with about 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 120 milligrams of sodium.

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