Do Healthy Chips Exist? A Dietitian Weighs In on Our Favourite “Healthy” Snacks

The grocery store snack aisle has plenty of options claiming healthful benefits. (Organic! Made with olive oil! Zero percent bad stuff!) Is it just slick wellness marketing? What snack should we reach for? Véronique Guitard, a registered dietitian in New Brunswick, answers all our questions on choosing one packaged goodie over another.

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Chip Away

Best Health: Chips made with avocado oil and olive oil are healthier than ones made with vegetable oil, right?

Véronique Guitard: Chips are chips! While olive and avocado oil are healthy fats, the type of oil used in making chips won’t make a huge nutritional difference in your overall health. Ultimately, pick chips you truly enjoy and eat them mindfully, on occasion.

BH: Are flavoured chips worse for you than plain?

VG: Chips flavoured with herbs, spices and flavourings are not any more harmful or unhealthy, and are often more tasty and enjoyable.

Staff Fave: Humble Potato Chips The Original, $5, Great Canadian Superstore —We love that these chips are made from Ontario-grown potatoes, cut thick for extra crunch, and that the packaging is plastic-free and industrial compostable certified.

Also Pictured: Cape Cod Original, $6, Whole Foods | Hardbite Honey Dijon, $5.30, Great Canadian Superstore | Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips Lime, $7, Great Canadian Superstore

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Puff Piece

BH: Popcorn is often low in cals and made with only three ingredients—does that make it healthier than chips?

VG: If the goal is to eat a lower calorie snack, then yes. Compared to most chips, popcorn is also a fibre-containing whole grain. Fibre provides many health benefits, such as increasing your feeling of fullness.

BH: And popcorn made with coconut oil is extra healthy, right?

VG: Not quite. Popcorn cooked in coconut oil, ghee, etc. actually isn’t healthier than other alternatives, and will likely have more saturated fat per serving. If saturated fat is of concern, keep serving sizes moderate—or better yet, pop your own popcorn and add a small amount of fat of your choosing, whichever flavour you like best.

BH: Okay, but veggie puffs made with rice, quinoa, and veggies are obviously healthier.

VG: Veggie puffs may sound healthier, but in the end, they’re just chips!

Staff Fave: Himalayan Pink Salt Popcorn, $5.50, Farm Boy—This salty treat comes in a ginormous bag, which is important—we gobble it by the fistful.

Also Pictured: LesserEvil Popcorn Oh My Ghee!, $5.50, Great Canadian Superstore | Off the Eaten Path Garden Crisps, $5.50, Great Canadian Superstore | GoGo Quinoa Pink Salt & Vinegar Puffs, $4, Great Canadian Superstore

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Veg Out

BH: Are veggie, seaweed and coconut chips a better choice than potato chips?

VG: Chips made with other ingredients (such as chickpeas) may offer interesting nutrient profiles like a higher fibre or protein content.

BH: Ah, knew it.

VG: But wait—chips are chips, remember? So they may still be high in saturated fats and sodium.

Staff Fave: Terra Chips Original, $8, Whole Foods—These taro and sweet potato chips get our vote because they’re high in fibre (12 percent of your daily value!) and super tasty.

Also Pictured: Veggie Sticks, $4.50, Farm Boy | Chips Original, $8, Whole Foods | Crispy Beetroot Slices, $3, Whole Foods | Hungry Buddha, $3, Loblaws | The Good Bean Chickpeas in Chili and Lime, $5, Great Canadian Superstore | Crispy Seaweed, $6, Great Canadian Superstore

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Wise Crack

BH: Are wheat-free crackers a healthier choice?

VG: The only ingredients you should avoid are the ones you are allergic to or need to avoid for medical reasons. When choosing crackers for a snack, look for ones that are low in saturated fats and sodium (around 5% or less Daily Value for saturated fats and sodium), and have a high amount of fibre (more than 15% DV).

BH: Is it worth choosing crackers made with whole grains?

VG: Sure. It may mean you’re getting more beneficial fibre, which can help make you feel fuller, balance blood sugars, lower blood cholesterol and help with bowel regularity. Look for “100% whole grain” and whole grains at the beginning of the ingredients list. Crackers made with “100% whole wheat” are also a whole grain choice.

Staff Fave: Raincoast Crisps Fig & Olive, $8, Whole Food—This be-all, end-all fancy cracker perfectly combines crunchy grains and nuts with chewy dried fruit. Great on its own, magic as the base for a shingle of sharp cheese.

Also Pictured: Nud Everything Flax Crackers, $7, Great Canadian Superstore | PC Gluten-Free Cauliflower Crackers, $6.50, Great Canadian Superstore | Mary’s Organic Real Thin Crackers, $8, Whole Foods

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Do the Twist

BH: Are pretzels healthier than chips?

VG: Pretzels are typically lower in calories than chips, but they aren’t a nutritious snack on their own.

BH: So, skip them?

VG: Not if you like them! Just pair them with a source of protein, like a Greek yogurt dip or a piece of cheese, for a more balanced snack. Add a piece of fruit or some veggies for some extra fibre to boot.

Staff Fave: Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Bites, $8, Farm Boy—The unholy combo of creamy peanut butter and salty pretzel is about as addictive as a snack can get.

Also Pictured: Neal Brothers Pretzel Rods, $5.50, Whole Foods | Protein Pressels, $5, Great Canadian Superstore

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

In a Nutshell

BH: Should we be eating raw—not salted or roasted—nuts?

VG: Not true! Just keep the serving size to about ¼ cup per day to reap the health benefits of nuts (they’re a source of healthy fats, fibre and protein) without overdoing it on calories. And limit salted nuts if you have high blood pressure or a health condition where sodium should be limited.

BH: Are yogurt-covered nuts healthier than chocolate-covered ones?

VG: Unless you’re making your own yogurt-covered nuts, probably not. Ultimately, both mean the nuts are covered with a sugary coating. If you enjoy yogurt or chocolate-covered nuts (which are super tasty, by the way), eat them in moderation. A small handful is a good amount.

Staff Fave: Prana Kabana Maple Sea Salt Nuts, $9.30, Great Canadian Superstore—Glazed with maple syrup and sprinkled with sea salt, these nuts make an irresistible sweet-and-salty snack that happens to be high in fibre, too.

Also Pictured: PC Organics Cherries, Cranberries & Dark Chocolate Trail Mix, $6, Great Canadian Superstore | Elan Organic Sweet and Salty Mix, $6, Great Canadian Superstore | The Peanut Shop New Orleans Creole Style Nuts, $7, Whole Foods | Dill Flavoured Nut Crisps, $4.50, Farm Boy | Handfuel Dry Roasted Pistachios, $10, Whole Foods | Dark Chocolate Covered Double Roasted Almonds, $6.50, Farm Boy

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Sweet Escape

BH: Gummies made with “real fruit” are good, right?

VG: Although “real fruit” gummies contain fruit purees, the first ingredient is still sugar. They should still be considered candy–a source of added sugars–and eaten in moderation. Eating “real fruit” gummies is not the same as eating actual fruit.

BH: What about low-sugar alternatives, like Smart Sweets?

VG: These gummies use ingredients such as stevia leaf extract to provide a sweet taste. They also contain high amounts of fibre. If you enjoy the taste and texture of these products, and want to reduce your overall sugar consumption, they are a good choice.

BH: And is dark chocolate actually healthy?

VG: Dark chocolate (70-80%) will have more antioxidants and trace minerals than milk chocolate due to its higher cocoa content, and it also tends to have less added sugars. But, the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate can be found in other foods–such as fruits and vegetables.

Staff Fave: GoBio! Organic Wine Gums, $4, Whole Foods—A small handful of chewy, tangy wine gums are our sugar hit of choice.

Also Pictured: Chimes Ginger Chew Mango, $5, Whole Foods | Smart Sweets Sour Blast Buddies, $3.30, Farm Boy | RJ’s Licorice Raspberry Flavour, $4.50, Whole Foods | Theobroma Organic 60% Dark Chocolate with Cherry Chunks, $5.50, Whole Foods | Justin’s Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, $7.30, Great Canadian Superstore

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Image: Suech and Beck | Styling: Franny Alder

Smart Cookie

BH: Are some cookies healthier than others?

VG: You can certainly choose options with less added sugars and saturated fats, but I still think of these as “sometimes” foods. Just enjoy a cookie—any cookie—after eating a balanced meal, on occasion.

Staff Fave: 365 Gingersnap Cookies, $4, Whole Foods—These crunchy ginger cookies, made for dunking in your afternoon cup of coffee, pack a spicy kick.

Also Pictured: Real Treat Pantry Brown Sugar Shortbread, $7.70, Whole Foods | Cookie It Up White Chocolate Cranberry Shortbread Cookies, $5, Whole Foods | Organic Savör Chocolate Vanilla Sandwich Cookies, $4.70, Whole Foods | PC Organics Chocolate Digestive Biscuits, $5, Great Canadian Superstore | Tate’s Bake Shop Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, $10, Whole Foods

Next: This Nutrition Expert Is Encouraging You to Eat the Cookie

Originally Published in Best Health Canada

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