Healthy Snack of the Week: Alternatives to Potato Chips

The next time you reach into the very bottom of that bag, chuckle with the knowledge that potato chips are said to have been created by a fellow named George Crum in 1853.

Legend has it that Crum, working at the upscale Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York, was receiving complaints that his French fries were too thick and soft. So, Crum decided to thin-slice his potatoes and fry them in grease until they browned. By the time he opened his own restaurant in 1860, he was delivering a basket of Crum’s “Saratoga Chips” to every table.

Today, the crunchy, tasty, and snackable potato chip, in and of itself, is not such a bad thing:  Only eight or so calories for a small chip, about 10 calories for a large one.

But mega-producer Frito-Lay hinted at the real problem back in 1963 with a marketing slogan that former Cowardly Lion Bert Lahr would make famous: “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

via Frito-Lay

It turns out that there is actually science (research conducted by FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg in Erlangen, Germany) that reveals why we aren’t satisfied with just one when it comes to potato chips or similar snacks. It has to do with molecular triggers stimulating the reward center in the brain.

No matter the reason, Americans still love their chips so much that eating just one is not a likely scenario once the bag is cracked open.

Thanks to research by PopSugar we can compare the following data for one-ounce servings of some of America’s leading chips.

  • Lay’s Classic Potato Chips: 15 chips, 160 calories, 10 grams fat
  • Pringles Original: 14 crisps, 160 calories, 11 grams fat
  • Fritos: 32 corn chips, 160 calories, 10 grams fat
  • Ruffles: 12 chips, 160 calories, 10 grams fat
  • Doritos Nacho Cheese: 12 chips, 150 calories, 8 grams fat
  • Tostitos (restaurant style): 7 chips, 140 calories, 7 grams fat

Nibblers can reduce the calorie burden with baked chips—for instance, about 120 calories per ounce for Baked Lay’s or Baked Ruffles.

But for those searching for a better, more healthful way, there are plenty of chip solutions that can be made at home.

Alternative chip recipes abound on the Internet. Buzzfeed offers 23 non-potato chip recipes including recipes for butternut squash, tofu, and tomato.

Viralnova lists 20 alternatives to potato chips and fries that they term “delicious and healthy.” That site’s ingredients include Brussels sprouts, radish, and baked apple.

Wesley Delbridge, RD, nutrition director for the Chandler (Arizona) Unified School District Food and Nutrition Department, suggests baking zucchini, kale, or spinach chips in addition to the Brussels sprouts alternative.

For two servings of zucchini chips, Delbridge recommends thinly slicing a large zucchini with a mandoline. Coat evenly with olive oil and salt and bake low and slow on a baking sheet (no overlap) at 225 degrees for at least two hours or until crisp.

For kale or spinach, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Using four cups of vegetables, brush on the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for ten minutes or until the leaf has turned from soft until crunchy. Think about adding your favorite spice to add a unique taste to your chips.

kale chips

When preparing chips, there are some general tips to keep in mind. Here are “Five Pro Chip Tips” as offered by Greatest:

  • Use a mandoline—a cooking utensil that can pump out uniform, thin slices—or a chef’s knife to cut slices 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick for the right crisp.
  • When placing the chips on a baking sheet, line the sheet with parchment paper and lay the chips in a single layer. If the chips overlap, the edges won’t cook evenly.
  • For even cooking, rotate the pan halfway through and flip the chips.
  • For small batches, pop the chips in a toaster oven.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container. Most chips won’t stay at peak crunchiness for long.

Do you have a favorite chip snack? Have you tried any of the potato chip alternatives?  Please share your experiences and be sure to look for more Snack of the Week suggestions and information on healthy eating on Learning Liftoff’s food pages.

Featured Image - Michael Lynch "Plantain and Sweet Potato Chips" / CC by 2.0

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