And are they even made with real vegetables?
You’re heading down the snack aisle (hey, it was the shortest way) passing all those tempting bags of chips, when there they are: Veggie chips. Maybe they’re little stick puffs, or maybe they’re actual chips in a variety of cool root-vegetable colors. But the ingredients list all kinds of non-potato veggies, and the packaging tells you about all the healthy stuff hidden inside. And yet, they taste... too good. So, are these snacks really healthier than your average potato chip, or is it all a marketing ploy?
Unlike the DIY veggie chips you can make in your kitchen, most packaged versions only are only made with 60-70 percent produce. Here’s the breakdown when you compare a serving of veggie chips to a serving of potato chips:
Though regular potato chips have slightly more calories and fat than veggie chips, they have less sodium and carbs. Potatoes, oil and salt are typically the only ingredients found in a bag of potato chips—and most veggie chips aren’t much different.
This can be a trap for those looking to make healthier snacking choices—veggie chips tend to have a faux health halo because the average consumer may think they’re eating spinach, beets, or zucchini, when in reality they’re having a combination of starchy vegetables, salt, oil, yes—potatoes, and potato starch. Because veggie chips tend to be associated with, well, vegetables, people tend to get snack happy and eat them by the handful.
Cooking Light’s Food and Nutrition Director, Brierley Horton, MS, RD, says, “Veggie chips aren't a substitute for fresh veggies (they lose most of their nutrition awesomeness when they're whittled down to vegetable powders). Instead, they're more like an alternative to potato chips— some vegetable chip varieties are, at best, marginally more nutritious than potato chips while others are nutritionally equivalent to potato chips.
The bottom line: Veggie chips are really no "healthier" than potato chips, so it’s not worth picking one over the other. If you want to swap out processed snacks without giving up the salt and crunch, opt for fresh veggies with hummus, homemade vegetable chips, or a handful of lightly salted nuts. And if you’re really hankering for chips, Horton suggests eating a moderate portion—about a 1-ounce serving—to satisfy your craving.