The Healthier Choice: Potato Chips

We are foodies in many senses of the word. We love food: eating it, cooking it (most of the time), its smells, its flavors, creating our own dishes, trying new places. Most recently this shifted slightly when we started considering what went into our bodies by way of our food. We realized quickly that we were allowing some terrible ingredients into our systems, many of which we couldn’t pronounce and which were man-made. I’ve always heard the easiest way to determine what is good for you and what you don’t want going into your body is simply a matter of whether or not you can or pronounce it, and I’m getting closer to believing it after a single change we recently made.

Every year or two Lay’s potato chips runs a contest with four new, off-the-wall flavors that have been suggested by consumers. You can buy them in the store to try them until the voting comes to an end several months later and the winner becomes available for a much longer period of time. You can also buy them at Subway, where I bought and tried one of this year’s new flavors: tzazki-flavored chips. For those of you less familiar with Greek food, tzaziki is the yogurt-based, cucumber and dill sauce that comes on gyros. You’ve gotta like Greek food to let this flavor make it into your pantry, but I will be the first to raise my hand for anything with Greek influence. The first chip didn’t immediately win me over, but, after a few more, the flavors came through and I began to appreciate them. On that same visit to subway, my partner wanted to try a healthier option and selected Simply Lay’s, their healthier option. We tried both flavors when we got home, and only I liked the odd-flavored contestant. But we both liked the healthier one. That’s when we began comparing the chips.

First, the ingredient list on the tzaziki-flavored chips was a smack in the face. Technically there were only three ingredients–potatoes, canola oil, and tzaziki seasoning–but that last one was made up of at least sixteen more ingredients with possibly more.

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The wording said things like “including” where a simple term such as spices could contain more than what was listed. I recognized some of the ingredients like whey, salt, and oil, but I wasn’t sure exactly what dextrose and maltodextrin were. And I was immediately suspicious of simple phrases like cucumber seasoning because it was unclear what comprises those ingredients. Is it simply dried cucumbers or something more that’s been added? They were tasty but they came with a laundry list of ingredients I had just ingested.

Next we looked at the ingredients on the Simply Lay’s chips. There were only three: potatoes, sunflower oil, and sea salt.

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That’s it. No parentheses or brackets. No phrases like “might contain” or “including” with lists within lists of what makes up each ingredient. These chips made how we think of potato chips being made by slicing potatoes, dropping them in oil, and giving them a toss in salt.

That aspect of the comparison was a no-brainer. Then we flipped the packages over and looked at the front. My chips began to fall even further behind.

My one-of-a-kind, overly advertised chips had no indications of any kind on the front of their package as to what types of potatoes went into them or what they contained, but my partner’s Simply Lay’s continued to be simply potatoes. Among the aspects of her chips, the following were identified on the front and further explained on the back:

  • They are gluten-free thanks to specific sourcing and guaranteed to be so because of their testing program specifically for the Simply Lay’s line of chips.
  • The sunflower oil used with the chips is expeller-expressed, which means it was extracted using a press rather than with the use of chemicals that can impact the nutrition and flavor of the oil.
  • There are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in the chips. That sounds simple enough until you look for it purposefully and then it’s difficult to find.
  • They are salted with sea salt that is gathered through evaporation rather than mimed like more common salt. The health benefits of this are still up in the air, as many organizations say we invest so little that it might not make a difference; however, we prefer sea salt because of its more natural state when it is ready to eat as opposed to mined salt that often has to be slightly processed before being sold.

On top of these aspects, the stamp on the front declared Lay’s Simply as a non-GMO food item. Did you noticed the last item beneath the ingredients of Lay’s tzaziki-flavored chips: “Partially produced with genetic engineering.” No one should be comfortable ingesting something that says that right on the package!

Those are simple aspects of food but unfortunately not common in most chips. When you get highly flavored chips, especially the cheaper or more popular brands, the odds increase that they use chemical methods to extract oil, add in unpronounceable or misleading ingredients, and aren’t giving you a simple potato chip. All things considered, potato chips aren’t the best ingredient to a healthy diet anyway, but replacing our previously preferred brands with flavored spices with Simply Lay’s has been easier than we expected. In the end, however, it is better to choose the healthier option–and these taste just as good!

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