Potato chips are delicious, but they’re called “junk food” for a reason. A bag of potato chips adds significant calories, salt, fat and carbohydrate to your diet without contributing necessary protein, fiber, vitamins or minerals. For the same calorie intake as a bag of potato chips, there are alternative healthier snacks that provide better nutrition. The following snacks can satisfy your savory cravings while packing a nutritional punch:
Nuts or Seeds
Any nuts or seeds can substitute as a salty, savory snack in place of potato chips. The advantage to nuts and seeds is that they provide protein, minerals and healthier fats by comparison with potato chips. Sunflower seeds, cashews, macadamia nuts or peanuts all make a healthier alternative to potato chips. If you need to limit your sodium intake due to high blood pressure or another medical condition, choose unsalted nuts and your palette will soon adjust. If portion control is an issue, nuts that are sold in their shells will slow down the speed of your eating. In-shell pistachios or peanuts take longer to shell and eat, slowing down your calorie intake overall. Blue Diamond, for example, offers almonds in salt and vinegar, habanero BBQ, lime-chili and other flavors. An ounce of Blue Diamond salt-and-vinegar almonds provides 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and useful quantities of calcium and iron for 170 calories per serving. By comparison, an ounce of Lay’s salt and vinegar potato chips — at 160 calories per serving — contains only 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber and no calcium or iron. The carbohydrate content of potato chips is three times higher than that of flavored almonds, at 6 grams per ounce in chips versus 2 grams per ounce in the almonds.
Popcorn is a salty, savory alternative to potato chips. Air-popped popcorn provides 110 calories per ounce. In terms of calorie content, popcorn therefore compares favorably with the 160 calories in an ounce of potato chips. Beware oil-popped popcorn, however, which is not really a healthier snack than potato chips. Air-popped popcorn is low in fat, and gives you that satisfying crunchy experience as you eat.
Vegetable chips are generally much healthier than potato chips — this is especially true when veggie chips are baked rather than fried. A range of veggie chips can be bought in stores, or you can make your own at home by baking thinly sliced vegetables in heart-healthy olive oil. Thin, crunchy kale chips are a low-calorie food when baked, and unlike potato chips, they are low in sodium and fat. As an added bonus, kale chips are packed with iron, potassium and Vitamin A. Spinach chips are also low-calorie and provide iron, while beet chips provide the dietary fiber that is missing from potato chips.
Pretzels are high in carbohydrates and do not contribute significant protein, fiber or minerals to your diet. However, hard pretzels are very low in fat. This gives pretzels a major dietary advantage over potato chips, which are fried in oil and therefore have a high fat content. The low-fat content of hard pretzels reduces their calorie content by weight. An ounce of pretzels contains only 108 calories, while the same weight of potato chips contains around 160 calories. Additionally, hard pretzels take longer to chew than thin potato crisps, which is likely to slow your eating down.
Vegetables & Dip
If chips and dip are your weakness, any kind of veggies can be paired with dip for a
crunchy, satisfying snack. Carrots, celery, broccoli florets, and cherry tomatoes are classic dipping vegetables, but any vegetable can be dipped. Try dipping raw radishes for a peppery taste, or raw cauliflower florets for a satisfying but healthy treat.
Jason Kane is a professional blogger who is trying to be healthier this year. He currently writes for AEDs Today, a leading supplier of automatic external defibrillators.