Vegetable Chips -- Are They Actually Good For You?

03/11/2015 7:58 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Healthy Organic Vegetable Chips Ready to Eat

Sweet potato, beetroot, kale and even turnip -- all of these vegetables can be turned into delicious salty chips.

Supposedly healthier than the humble potato or corn variety, veggie chips can lure you into thinking scoffing down a bag or two is no big deal. But are they actually good for you?

"They are definitely a slight improvement on regular potato chips -- but only a slight one," nutritionist and founder of Sydney City Nutritionist, Jennifer May, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"I think what is really good for us to get used to is looking at labels and reading them to find out what the actual ingredients are and the nutritional content.

"Even within vegetable chips -- I think you'd be surprised. For instance people are currently eating sweet potato chips like they are going out of fashion, and they think it's fine because it's sweet potato -- but in fact the sugar content would be higher than in a normal potato chip.

"Sweet potatoes are higher in sugar and lower in starch, so there are benefits but I wouldn't say sweet potato chips bought at the shop would necessarily be a healthy snack option."

"Like everything it depends on who it’s manufacturing them," Michele Chevalley Hedge, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner at A Healthy View continued.

"Are there good ones? Yes. Are there really bad ones? Absolutely.

"What we are looking for are 'clean' ingredients, and by that I mean low sugar, no additives, preservatives or sulphites.

"We love spice and we don’t mind a bit of salt -- those are great things added into some of these veggie chips -- but we are really looking out for sneaky sugars and those sulphites, which can actually create havoc on sinuses and allergies and asthma."

"The good news is as we are moving forwards, there seems to be a paradigm shift towards nutrition. As a result there are more and more good quality ones that you can grab and go which is fantastic for the everyday person, but ideally, it would be great if we were making them ourselves."

Crispy, Healthy Veggie Chips

May agrees, stating those really wanting to enjoy vegetable chips healthily will need to invest some time in the kitchen.

"Making your own vegetable chips is a completely different story," May told HuffPost Australia. "You can make some really nice ones.

"Kale chips, for instance. I hate the bought ones -- I think they taste like feet. I make my own quite a lot, but the only problem is, they don't seem to stay crispy for very long.

"It goes to show how much processing goes into foods. When you make it yourself, if it doesn't stay as crispy as the ones you bought in the packet -- that really comes down to what was in that packet of chips. You have to ask 'what has been sprayed on it?' It's very rare to find chips without preservatives, for instance.

"Also, while beetroot and sweet potato do have nutritional benefits, by the time the roasting has occurred -- and we're talking these tiny, thin-cut chips that are roasted to an inch of their life and covered in salt -- all those beautiful nutrients wouldn’t be viable in the form of a chip.

"What we're looking for is less sodium and good quality oil. For instance if you make your own version you can use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, which are better for you. You don't want things made with sunflower oil or canola oil.

"At the end of the day most of those things are laden with preservatives. Some might actually have MSG."

And what about other "healthy" snacks like wasabi peas?

"They are certainly not a healthy food," May said. "Looking at the ingredients, you have green peas as number one -- well that’s good -- but then you have two different types of flour, added starch, soy bean oil -- which is not a healthy oil -- sugar, salt and then the wasabi. After all that. And artificial colour as well.

"It's not even a food. I definitely think people shouldn’t be eating snacks like this on a regular basis."

So, in the event you don't have the time to make your own vegetable chips what can snack-lovers eat that's relatively guilt free?

"Tamari almonds are great because they provide crunch and saltiness but are also nutrient dense," Chevalley Hedge said.

"Also fresh fruit -- and I mean a whole piece of fruit, because a whole piece of fruit contains fibre and that’s important.

"In terms of things like packaged goods, bliss balls or some kind of protein balls are good as long as you make sure they are ‘clean’ or ‘wholefood'. Read the label.

"Another good grab-and-go are Chic Nuts , which are just roasted chickpeas and quite clean yummy snack."

"A great snack to have at your desk is raw nuts," May said. "For those who have problems digesting and feel a bit bloated afterwards -- or if you eat heaps and heaps of nuts and you still feel hungry -- it means you're not processing them properly. I'd recommend softening them up first. All you need to do is soak them in water for half an hour.

"I always have a jar of almond butter or tahini handy, always. That way if I get stuck, I can have a couple of spoons of that. I usually bring some chopped vegies in with me which work a treat.

"Popcorn isn’t too bad, out of all the snacks, though it's best to make your own if you can. Use coconut oil or extra virgin oil with a bit of Himalayan salt.

"You want to avoid that really processed salt which is just sodium and nothing else. Make your popcorn and put it into a little zip-lock bag -- that's a good work snack to have."

At the end of the day, Chevalley Hedge says what we all knew but didn't want to hear -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"I love all those snacky things because people are always wanting to have a bit of fun," Chevalley Hedge said. "Food can be tasty and nutritious.

"The main thing is to look at the ingredients. If it sounds like junk, it usually is.

"If it’s something your grandmother would recognise, it normally gets the thumbs up."

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