The potato chips packet that is sitting in my pantry right now has only 3 ingredients – Potatoes, Sunflower and salt. That is pretty clean, right? So, before we bash up potato chips as terrible, bad, bad and wag our finger vigorously at it…let us try to appreciate the fact that a crispy chip is available to us at a moment’s notice and how cool that is.
Chips have very tight manufacturing processes. The oil has to be maintained at a certain temperature, the used oil has to be disposed in an environmentally sound manner, the chips has to remain airy and crunchy despite a lot of transportation between the manufacturing plants and the stores that sell them.They also have a much shorter shelf life because the fats (oils) can go rancid unlike soft drinks that can stay on shelves for very long time because of their sugar. So, while, its impact on our body may not be optimal, the underlying process is pretty cool, don’t you think?
Why is it bad then?
For understanding the addictive nature of potato chips, I will encourage my readers to check out #1 New York Times Bestseller Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss . He is a brilliant reporter who explains “Chips are nice and salty, which tells the brain to eat more, and loaded with fat […]. Potato chips hit the trifecta because they’re also loaded with starch, which converts to sugar the instant it hits your tongue. And glucose spikes lead to cravings.”He goes on to add “The potato chip is the single largest contributor to weight gain in the country. It’s not for nothing that Lay’s slogan is ‘you can’t eat just one.'”
Another reason why chips are bad for us – it is concentrated calories. Frying in hot oil decreases the moisture content of potato chips from about 80% to <2%. So, imagine how full your stomach feels eating one boiled potato, versus how light you feel when you eat a small packet of chips (but they are the exact same calories)!! It is deceptive and messes your calculations. “I only ate a handful of chips” is what your brain will thinking while breezing through 160 calories in no time.
I would love to banish potato chips from the house. But it will be unfair to my husband who loves chips and has a lot more self control than I do. So, I avoid them and have healthier substitutes for that salty snack craving.
This one is a hard one, for many vegetarians out there. I know that, because I personally had to get over the fishy smell of the seaweed and get used to it. Over time, I have begun to like it. My kids love seaweed. They snack on it without any mental block of “it smells different…”
If you are new to seaweed, I urge you to give it a few tries and a few brands before you make up your mind. The seaweed sold at both Costco and Trader Joe’s are made really well. Best of all, an entire packet that can last you an entire show on Netflix is only 100 calories (not that I am encouraging it, in fact, forget I said anything :)…)
In terms of nutrition from seaweed, you might get some iron, and fiber, but meh, nothing major…it is certainly not the basis for why you should be eating them.
I get 12 can of olives from Costco every 2-3 weeks. My younger daughter can be accused of finishing half of it. She is crazy about olives. Olives have 75-80% water, so they are more filling than chips. In fact, I dare you to binge on it (unless you are my younger daughter – I have to, pretty much, wrestle the can away from her :)).
Again, in terms of nutrition, they have some Vitamin E. But that is pretty much it. While they are a better alternative to the addictive potato chips, but they are no health superpower things and cannot cure heartbreak, dyspepsia or acne :).
These are my top 2 snack substitutes for salty cravings. What are yours? I am super interested in hearing any healthy snack alternatives that you have discovered. Please share your finding with us down below.
Additional notes and references
Some interesting Q&A’s from Michael Moss: http://www.michaelmossbooks.com/salt-sugar-fat
My analysis on different type of salty snacks published in LinkedIN platform