Hi. My name is Liz. I’m a chip-aholic.

Once I start eating them, I can’t stop. And I have a tendency to do this over and over again. It can be tortilla chips, brown rice tortillas made into chips, unsweetened banana chips, sweet potato chips, chips made with black beans. You name it. I eat them like they’re going out of style. I’ve been known to have to smash them and throw them away to stop myself.

I can tell you how it all started. In my twisted ‘rules’ of what I will and won’t eat, in an odd way, corn tortilla chips fall into the acceptable category. They have minimal ingredients — corn. No sugar, no wheat, no dairy or other animal products. I’ve long overlooked the part about them being fried because they’re often one of the few things on a menu I’ll eat.

For me, the draw is the crunch. At least that’s the only conclusion I can truly reach. After all, it doesn’t matter if they’re unsalted chips, or fruit chips. I’m an equal opportunity chip inhaler. I’ll be honest, it could also be that they’re usually carbs and, well, I do love my carbs.

So, in an effort to break myself of this habit, I set out to dig a little deeper into the nutritional, or should I say non-nutritional, value of chips with the hopes that these facts will be the lynch pin to get me to put the chips down.

Fruit chips: Nutrition Facts

Let’s start with fruit chip. They sound healthy. After all, they’re fruit … and fruit is healthy. And, I don’t eat the sweetened ones so there’s not that whole added sugar issue. Well, I did some research and here’s what I learned about those ‘healthy’ fruit chips.

banana chips

 

Let’s start with the ingredients. In addition to the obvious, bananas, the ingredients also lists coconut oil and “Natural Banana Flavor.” Any time I see something that says ‘natural [fill in the blank] flavor’, I have to ask why that’s there and what does that really mean. Also, because I still go light on oil any time I use it, it concerns me just how much coconut oil has been added to get them that crunchy. Translation: it’s probably a lot.

Then there’s the nutrition facts. Fat: 10g, Carbs 16g, Sugar 1g, Protein 2g. FOR 1/4 CUP!  And of those fat grams — 9 are saturated fat … the stuff known to cause heart disease and all kinds of other bodily harm. So those bananas you think you’re eating, they might as well be french fries.

Then there’s the part about them being fried. If you stop and think about what the raw foodies preach – that any cooking over 112 degrees destroys the nutrients, it’s pretty safe to say that when a banana is taken, coated in oil, and made crispy, most, if not all, of the nutritional value has been sucked out of it.

So, here’s the down and dirty in my opinion… eating bananas may not be quite as bad as eating french fries or potato chips, but they’re really not much better. Fact is, you’re much better off  eating a fresh banana!

smiling banana

It’s nutrient dense, filling, and clearly significantly lower in fat — and without the questionable ingredient of ‘natural flavoring.’

Healthy Chips? 

Blue corn. Organic corn. Added flax. Whole grains. Beans.

The chip industry has certainly caught our attention with making chips sound healthy.

First, the positive news. For the most part, ingredient-wise, they’re not too terribly bad. They’re corn. My only recommendation would be to choose ones that really are just corn — even better if it’s blue corn — but stay away from the ones that have a lot of other preservative-like and refined ingredients, including sugars.

Now, the bad news. In case you were wondering, they’re fried (at least most of the time). And, as we all know, fried anything is unhealthy and just because they’re not called ‘fried chips’, they’re still unhealthy.

Here’s what happens, in order to fry foods, oil is heated to super high temperatures. In the process, the chemical structure of the oil is altered. The result is a substance that not only has zero nutritional value, but the body can’t even figure out what to do with it. And, when I say that, I mean the body doesn’t know anything good to do with it, because bad things do happen. Heated fats increase the free radicals in the body, which cause inflammation, which destroy tissues, which lead to diseases. Anti-oxidants can help, but probably not enough to completely counteract daily chip chomping.

And, P.S., this goes for sweet potato chips too. Sorry!

Healthy Eating

So, now that I’ve gone and ruined the fun of eating chips, I do have a few suggestions that, ok, may take a bit of adjusting before you get excited about the swap, but are good, and healthy, and will soon become your new crunchy favs!

1. Jicama chips. Jicama is a root vegetable that I liken to water chestnuts. They don’t have a ton of flavor themselves, but they also don’t have a ton of fat or calories and they’re fun to experiment with. It’s great for slaws or other salad. Some suggestions:

jicama chips

  • Chop it into fries and toss with EVOO, fresh squeezed lime, chili powder, and a little salt  –  and even add a bit of cucumber
  • Similar to above, but instead of the chili powder, add red pepper (fresh or flakes) and cilantro
  • For an oriental touch, mix grated jicama and carrots with EVOO, lemon juice, tamari, pecans, green onion, parsley and chickpeas
  • Experiment!

2. Make your own sweet potato chips or ‘fries’. Slice into thin chip shapes or like fries, toss with oil (ideally one that’s good at high heats) and bake until the desired crispiness. You can also do the same with zucchini, parsnips, eggplant, beets or radishes.

baked sweet potato

3. Opt for Baked Chips! Guiltless Gourmet are my personal favs.

guiltless gourmet

4. Carrots and Hummus. Not only are you getting the satisfaction of a good crunch, but you’ll also get fiber and protein.

5. Kale chips. Super high in nutrients and you can go as fancy or as simple as you want depending on the type of oil and seasonings you use.

6. My personal favorite… Brown rice tortillas, baked for a few minutes at 325 to get ’em slightly crispy then top with almond butter. Or, before popping in the toaster oven, spritz with EVOO and top with garlic powder and cumin.

7. Slice a daikon radish and dip it in your guac

daikon

And, of course, there’s always raw almonds!

Now, the big question… what to do with those two bags of chips sitting in my pantry….

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