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What are the healthiest chips? Here's what to look for, according to dietitians

How to choose a salty, crunchy snack that's actually satisfying.
/ Source: TODAY

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Discerning snackers have a lot of excellent choices these days. But when it comes to a classic potato chip, what's the healthiest version? Is there even such a thing as a "healthy" chip?

It depends on what you're looking for, dietitians tell, but some chip choices are definitely healthier than others.

"Potato chips in their most natural form are really just potatoes, oil and some salt," Rachel Stahl Salzman, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine, tells And potatoes are a vegetable! So, even a greasy potato chip can provide some fiber, vitamins and minerals, she says.

But that's not exactly the healthiest way to get those nutritional benefits.

While a potato can provide nutrients like potassium and vitamin A, "When you slice them really thin, deep fry them in — most often unhealthy — oils and smother them in salt or seasoning, they become less healthy," Julia Zumpano, registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, tells

But that doesn't mean chips can't be part of your diet, Zumpano says. "Anything in moderation can be included safely," she says, "especially if you're mindful of the ingredients and controlling the portion."

So, if you're looking for a healthier version of your go-to salty, crunch snack, here's what to watch out for, according to dietitians.

What to look for in healthier chips:

Baked rather than fried

Classic potato chips are typically fried, but frying foods isn't the healthiest way to cook them.

A diet high in fried and ultraprocessed foods is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular issues, cancer, dementia and mental health issues. Fried, fatty foods can also exacerbate health conditions like acid reflux.

Fried potatoes may have some unique risks as well: “We know that fried potatoes, including french fries, give off some byproducts that have been shown to be unhealthy,” Zumpano says.

In particular, fried potatoes can contain acrylamide, a compound that emerges at high heat. In laboratory studies, acrylamide can cause cancer and other health issues in animals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.

Potato snacks that have been baked rather than fried will be a healthier option, the experts agree.

Healthier cooking oils

The oil used in making the potato chips matters, too, the experts say. In particular, "we want to be mindful of saturated fat," Stahl Salzman says, which we want to reduce in order to support our overall health.

Look for chips made with avocado or olive oil, the experts say. In particular, experts previously told that olive oil is the healthiest cooking oil due to its combination of healthy fats, vitamins and antioxidants. However, the smoke point of olive and avocado oils is lower than that of other options, which makes them better suited to baking than frying.

A chip that's "dipped in a higher-quality oil, like olive oil or avocado oil, would be two better choices for sure," Zumpano says.

Some potato chips are made with a vegetable oil blend. For example, Lay's Classic Potato Chips are made with a blend including canola, corn, soybean and/or sunflower oils, according to the company's website. Vegetable oils like these typically contain a good balance of healthy fats and nutrients, experts told previously. And they can generally withstand higher temperatures.

Avoid chips made with animal oils as well as coconut, palm or palm kernel oil, which have higher levels of saturated fat, the dietitians say.

A variety of veggies and legumes

Potatoes do contain some nutrients — even in chip form. But with so many other chip options available now, why not branch out?

"They now make chips from beetroot, kale and sweet potato, which all confer different vitamin and mineral profiles," Stahl Salzman says. You can even make them yourself.

There are also corn, popcorn and black bean chips, as well as snap pea, chickpea and lentil-based snacks that provide a larger dose of satisfying protein and fiber.

But veggie chips like these aren’t necessarily healthier than their potato counterparts. "You can't really rely on it as your vegetable — even if it's beetroot or kale — because it can have a lot of sodium and fat mixed into it," Stahl Salzman explains. 

Again, look for those that are baked and cooked in healthier, nutrient-rich oils. And remember that even those chips are not the best way to get the nutrient benefits from their vegetable ingredients, the experts say.

"You can gain a small amount of nutritional benefit from some of those foods, but they are still snack foods," Zumpano says. "You're going to be better off eating real kale or black beans versus the chip version of them."

Healthier chip ideas:

When asked for healthy snack ideas, experts previously suggested these chip options:

  • Safe and Fair Popcorn Quinoa Chips
  • Siete Sea Salt Tortilla Chips
  • Splitz Original Crunchy Split Pea Crisp Snacks
  • Pulp Pantry Jalapeño Lime Chips
  • Hippeas Organic Sea Salt and Lime Chickpea Tortilla Chips
  • Back to Nature Rosemary Garlic Dipper Crisps

All snacks can fit in a healthy diet, but keep portion sizes in mind

The truth is that all of these chip choices are still snacks. They're not meant to be a major source of nutrients — they're meant to be delicious!

So, in general, dietitians say it's OK to eat a standard serving of the snacks you love in moderation even if they don't fit a traditional definition of "healthy." (If you have certain medical conditions, you may need to be extra careful around salty snacks like these, however.)

That means your snacks don't necessarily need to be "healthier." If what you really is classic potato chips, something like a kale chip, blue corn tortilla chip or popcorn chip might not satisfy your cravings. So, if you go with those alternatives, Stahl Salzman says, you may be tempted to compensate by eating more than a serving.

On the other hand, some people may find that their favorite potato chips are so "hyper-palatable" that it's impossible for them to eat just a single serving at a time, Zumpano explains.

When picking the healthiest chip for you, consider your taste preferences, snacking habits and overall nutrition goals, the experts agree.

"It's kind of a delicate balance," Stahl Salzman says. "And if you're going to go for the classic potato chips, stick to a small portion, enjoy it and move on."