Crispy, crunchy, slightly greasy, salty — veggie chips have the all the components of a satisfying snack food, with the implied promise they're a more virtuous choice compared to regular potato chips.
Wolfing them down like they're just as good as a kale salad? Not so fast.
Veggie crisps (and straws, those tube-like crisps that look like colored pencils) aren't quite as healthy as food marketers make them out to be. Here's a thorough investigation into these bags of puffed air and crispy lies.
From looking at the tomato and spinach on the front of this package of Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws, you'd think it safe to assume the straws are made from real greens. But you know what they say about assumptions...
The product's ingredient list reveals the straws are made from potato starch and merely flavored and colored with spinach powder and tomato paste. In total, these veggie straws are 12 ingredients. Meanwhile, regular Lay's Classic Potato Chips have just three: potatoes, vegetable oil and salt.
"If the vegetable is way down on the ingredient list, it means there is very little of the veggie in the chip," Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said in an email. "These products are made the same way potato chips are, using the vegetable, oil and salt."
Even if there are a few grams of fiber per serving, Rumsey noted you'll probably still feel hungry a few hours after snacking on veggie straws.
Put veggie crisps head-to-head with regular potato chips and you won't see much of a difference nutritionally. It depends on the brand, Rumsey said, but most veggie crisps have a relatively similar amount of calories and fat.
For a more substantial snack that will keep you full for longer, Rumsey recommends pairing your crisps with hummus or guacamole for added protein and healthy fats. Or you could always DIY by thinly slicing sweet potatoes or zucchini and baking them in the oven.