In an ideal world, we could celebrate the fact that we are mammals, with teeth designed for the express purpose of crushing thin slices of deep-fried tubers. We could embrace the bountiful annual harvests at the potato chip orchard, or devote each day of the calendar year to trying a different product from the Frito-Lay empire. But the problem is, potato chips may very well be the worst thing we consume.
Potato chips topped the list of foods that a group of Harvard researchers found contributed most to weight gain (ahead of red meat, pop and processed meat). They're high in calories and sodium and low in nutrients. And of all foods, they have the highest concentrations of acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer (in mice, but both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA believe it's cause for concern).
What if there were a way to get the things we love about potato chips – the flavour, the texture, the tactile experience – in a healthier form? To find out, The Globe and Mail rounded up six varieties of "healthy chips" to taste test. Some were baked, not fried, some were made of fruits, not vegetables, and all were pretty darn expensive.
While a few scored high with reviewers, registered dietitian Sobia Khan says you're probably better off popping kernels or baking your own kale chips if you're looking for a smart alternative to All-Dressed Ruffles (sodium content: 580 mg per 50 g serving). Khan, a professor of food and nutrition at Toronto's George Brown College, says that despite lofty claims about being low in fat, gluten-free or filled with antioxidants, most so-called healthy chips go head-to-head with their potato forebears when it comes to sodium content.
"What's really left of them when you dehydrate and process them and put them in a chip form?" asks Khan of the quinoa, seaweed and kale that make up today's newfangled chips. The Globe decided to find out: Here are the results of our taste test.
Snapea Crisps, lightly salted
Salty with a little bit of grease, these flavourful, reconstituted green peas were by far the office favourite.
Price: $3 per 93 g bag
Sodium content: 100 mg per 50 g
Choice quote: "I know it's not as healthy as it lets on." – Domini Clark, Globe Travel editor
Overall grade: A
Hippie Snacks Coconut Chips, sea-salt flavour
Sweet and surprisingly mild, these slightly crunchy pieces of dehydrated coconut were small, but satisfying.
Price: $6 per 56 g bag
Sodium content: 355 mg per 50 g
Choice quote: "Good garnish on a cake, but not really a 'chip' per se." – Dakshana Bascaramurty, Globe Toronto reporter
Overall grade: C
Simply7 Lentil Chips
The welcome, slightly spongy crunch of this chip turned out to be due to a secret ingredient: potato starch. No wonder it was so okay.
Price: $5 per 99 g bag
Sodium content: 750 mg per 50 g
Choice quote: "These have the consistency of Marks and Spencer prawn cocktail chips." – Cliff Lee, Globe Toronto deputy editor
"Now those are the king of chips!" – Dakshana Bascaramurty
Overall grade: B
Supereats Kale and Chia Chips, chili lime flavour
With a sad, stale crunch, this wannabe tortilla chip was the big loser.
Price: $6 per 142 g bag
Sodium content: 304 mg per 50 g
Choice quote: "The bitter aftertaste really sneaks up on you." – Domini Clark
Overall grade: F
Ocean's Halo The Seaweed Chip, sea-salt flavour
Some snack fans enjoyed the briny aroma and flavour of this controversial chip, while others abhorred its lingering marine taste.
Price: $5 per 84 g bag
Sodium content: 339 mg per 50 g
Choice quote: "This left me craving a litre of water." – Dakshana Bascaramurty
Overall grade: C
I Heart Keenwah Quinoa Puffs, herbes de Provence flavour
With a solid, toothsome crunch, these have promise. Things to fix: the complete lack of flavour.
Price: $5 per 85 g bag
Sodium content: 268 mg per 50 g
Choice quote: "It tastes like air, except more thirst-inducing." – Cliff Lee
Overall grade: D
Coconut? Pea? Lentils? See two Globe staffers sacrifice their taste buds to try five non-potato-chip "chips" at tgam.ca/chiptastetest