Potato chips are the scum of the snacking world. Let’s face it, no one thinks chips are healthy, or that eating them on a regular basis is a snacking-habit worth promoting.
In fact, potato chips have such a bad reputation that most parents use them as the standard by which they evaluate all other snacks: if it’s better than a potato chips, it’s got to be good. That’s the rationale that gives veggie chips a good rap. But I’m here to say that when it comes to teaching kids good snacking habits, regular old potato chips are the way to go.
Potato chips are a better choice for your kids than veggie chips because …
1) They have been so thoroughly characterized as a “bad” snack that most parents hand them out sparingly --- and sparingly is how often your kids should eat all salty snacks. Remember: It Doesn’t Matter What Your Kids Eat. What matters is how frequently they eat it. Once or twice a week is enough for kids to snack on any one of the following: chips, pretzels, doodles, puffs, Goldfish, Bunnies, Cheez Its, or any kind of crispy, cracker-y kind of thing.
2) Parents don’t teach their kids that potato chips are healthy. Veggie chips are an entirely different story. They are designed to fool parents into thinking they’re healthy -- or at least healthy enough -- to be consumed on a regular basis, and parents pass on this “healthy enough” message to their kids.
A casual look around the playground shows how successful marketers have been at convincing people that veggie chips trump potato chips.
Most mothers who give their kids veggie chips, at least the mothers I know, don’t delude themselves into thinking that they’re giving their kids a healthy snack. They do, however, think that veggie chips are better than potato chips and that when their kids eat them they’re ingesting at least a smattering of vegetables.
“I try to get the kind with kale,” one mother recently said. Sound familiar?
Potato chips and veggie chips are basically the same product, except potato chips have more potato in them.
OK, so I'm exaggerating just a tad. There are two kinds of veggie chips: one with veggies and one without.
- On one end of the vegetable chip continuum there are Original Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips: a fried up seasonal mix of sweet potato, parsnip, batata, taro, and yucca. (In case you’re wondering, batata is a type of sweet potato.)
- On the other end of the continuum there are Snyder’s of Hanover Naturals Garden Veggie Crisps in Potato, Tomato & Spinach flavor: a product that has more vegetables in the name than in the chip!
Neither style of veggie chip is particularly good for your kids. Neither is appreciably better than a potato chip, and, it goes without saying that neither does anything to teach your kids to eat vegetables. The only thing that both do, in fact, is promote the habit of eating chips.
The difference between Lay’s Classic potato chips, Terra Chips and Garden Veggie Crisps boils down to this:
- If you’re after nutrition, go for the potato chips first. True, Lay’s Classic Potato Chips have slightly more calories, fat and sodium than the other choices, but they also have more of the good stuff: Vitamin E, C, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, and Potassium.
- If you or you’re kids are not in the mood for potato chips, choose the Terra chips next. They have roughly the same calories and fat as the Lay’s Potato chips, but they have a lot less sodium and at least some vitamins A and C, Calcium and Iron.
- And all those other veggie chips? Unless your kids are craving potato flour and/or potato starch, forget about them. Garden Veggie Crisps do contain some tomato and a shake of spinach and beet powders, though the veggies can’t amount to much: tomato, spinach and beets are loaded with vitamins but these chips? Not so much.
Look at the facts for about one ounce of each kind of chip:
Here's a rule of thumb: Don't look for vegetables in processed foods.
But if you do, check out the nutrition labels. Remember, products made with tomatoes should get a boost from the vitamins found in tomatoes - such as Vitamin A. So should items containing spinach. If they don't, then the vegetables have been processed into oblivion and they're on the label more for show than for substance.
Better yet, skip the labels and go for real food. Read Why Nobody Needs Nutrition Labels.
Here's another rule of thumb: Look for vegetables in actual vegetables.
Not only is it healthier, but it's the only way to influence your kids' snacking habits in the direction you want them to go. And if you want to get your vitamins from a chip... choose potato chips!
~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~
P.S. If you have high hopes for Veggie Pirate’s Booty, you’re out of luck. While this puffed snack contains a sprinkling of vegetable powders – spinach, broccoli, kale, carrot, cabbage, and parsley -- there are still no vitamins in the bag. Save Veggie Pirate's Booty for those times when you have a hankerin’ for corn meal, rice, soy flour, and rice flour. YUM!
Sources: Product Nutrition Labels