That's a Load of Crunch: 10 Healthful Options to the Potato Chip

          A lot of what we do as humans stems from hand-me-downs of bad habits.  It's customary to crave chips with your salsa, chips with your guacamole, chips with your sandwich, chips during a movie, chips during a cook out.  But as a health care provider, I was forced to break away from this seemingly harmless, yet DEATHLY habit when during my years of formal medical education at Howard, I would see my patients getting cleared for surgery to get an extremity amputated from uncontrolled diabetes, or admitted to the ICU from strokes caused by high blood pressure.  

          I knew I had to get my life together, especially since like most people of color, the genetic predisposition to hypertension, diabetes, and other co-morbidites that ultimately lead to these surgeries, and an earlier death, flowed through my veins.  

          The reason I felt moved to write this post was because I found that when I asked my patients, as a med student and now as a resident, where they had the hardest time sticking to their healthy diets to control their high blood pressure and diabetes, they replied with the expected answer: "I can't give up potato chips / sodas / fast food / etc."  And honestly, I still see the same problem and hear the same reasoning from my patients now that I am away from Howard.  These were some of the options I found for myself, and soon began to provide as options for my patients when counseling them on what to eat to cut out the fried potato crisp. 

          If you look at one serving of potato chips, the fat, carb, and sodium content is quite astounding, especially when you account that it only comes from about 15 chips.  Um hello, that's not enough chips to even put a DENT in my fast. 

           Now I will give fair warning that a lot of these options my have less sodium content than that of the potato chip, but still a fair amount; however, the glycemic index is not as high as the potato chip, and you can find low sodium options, or supplement your diet with increasing your water intake.  

           These options serve the purpose to stimulate and fulfill that salty, savory place in you soul that the potato chip usually occupies, while still offering a more healthful conglomerate of more protein, less unhealthy fats, less carbs and a lower glycemic index, and more fiber.  Let's get to it!

1. Cold Veggies

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          No one can resist the taste of guacamole... NO ONE! If you do, please feel free to leave a comment so I can let you know how weird you are (LOL).  I also use this option for salsa.  Think about it, 99% of the time, when you choose to dip into guac, salsa, and other dipping delights, you do so with chips, and it's literally only because of the crunch, not because of the taste of said chip. The chips are usually bland anyway! So trade in the plain carby crunch for a more healthful one! I usually opt for carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, or squash to spoon this yummy treat into my mouth.  If you need a little bit more a salty bite, toss the veggies in olive oil and add a PINCH of salt (don't overdo it and undo all the health you're packing into your gut!).  

2. Nuts

          I know we refer our patients to this option more often than not as an option to replace chips in their diets.  And I also know, for a fact, that nuts are not as fun.  A lot of nuts aren't my favorite, but I have found that lightly salted pistachio nuts, cashews, and / or almonds tend to take a close second to the potato chip.  Nuts are packed with healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants.  Some of my favorite nuts and their serving info are listed below.  

          Some of you may question that the serving info below lists the same amount of overall fat and saturated fat (solid fat that's bad for you as it is more likely to clog your arteries) as a serving of potato chips; but please remember, the potato chip is full of empty calories, so you're likely to eat more, thereby, taking in more fat than just one serving, whereas the nuts are more likely to fill you up with a smaller portion.  

3. Brown Rice or Quinoa Chips

          This has to be my favorite option.  Not only do these babies have less sodium, total fat, and saturated fat, but they are JUST as crunchy as the potato chip! And with the wide variety of flavors, you're bound to find one to fall in love with! My favorite brand and the serving info is listed below.  

           Now it doesn't just stop at brown rice and quinoa chips; you've got tons of options like bean chips, lentil chips, etc.  Just PLEASE READ the ingredients and nutritional info! Some brands put a lot of potato starch in the chips and you might as well avoid spending $3-4 on a bag of "healthy chips" if all it's going to do is have the same effects as the potato chip!

4. Seaweed Snacks

          Now I know what you're all thinking with one: Seaweed is gross, it probably tastes like fish excreta, it comes from dirty water... etc etc.  Go ahead and get all your jokes in.  But you must know that in these tiny little sheets of squares are large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants, and micronutrients, including folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium, and iodine.  Just make sure you are checking the label for all of the ingredients; some brands will have loads of sodium and oil.  Below is my favorite brand and my favorite flavors.  Check out the serving info: pretty impressive for such a tasty snack!

          Perfect for the Classic potato chip lover.  

          My favorite! And although I'm not the biggest BBQ chip fan, this is the flavor you're looking for if you are a BBQ potato chip lover.  

          Perfect for the jalapeño potato chip lover.  Just don't eat them too fast, or your nose and tongue will fall off! 

5. Coconut Chips

          I knew I had to include something for all my sweet toothed peeps and coconut lovers out there.  If you're not a fan of the coconut, just keep on scrolling (LOL).  Now please be aware, these are NOT the same as coconut flakes; I have been suckered into buying those babies and for a lack of better terms, they suck and are flavorless.  These chips, however, are super yum yum! I will admit, they are expensive (about $3-4 for a bag that's half full), but they are so versatile and yummers that this is something I have to splurge on.  We all know coconut as a myriad of health benefits.  Namely better digestion and increasing your HDL levels (the good cholesterol), are what is most important to me.  

          You can eat these alongside a sandwich, on top of your soup, on a salad or oatmeal, and much more.  That's why I love em! Also, there's so many flavors!  As with most things in life anything, too much of anything isn't good; so just don't eat too much.  As you can see, lots of saturated fats!

6. Wasabi Peas and Wasabi Snacks

          If you are the spicy lover, this snack is for you! Just keep a tall glass of water and a tissue nearby! I love this option as it has a large amount of protein per serving to offer!

7. Legume Crisps

          Yo these pea crisps are the BOMB.COM! Eating them alone is awesome, sure, but they are versatile: you can pile them on your salads, soups, and casseroles!  What's even better is the serving size is HUGE, but hardly any saturated fat or sodium, and a good amount of protein!

8. Veggie Chips

          Sweet potato straws, kale chips, onion crisps, dehydrated okra chips, or just plain ole veggie crips.  I love dipping these in guac or salsa! You can find these on the self serve aisle at Whole Foods, so no serving info available for this option :(, but I can guarantee you dehydrated vegetables are better than the fried potato! Just remember to limit how much you intake because these can have a good amount of salt on them.  

9. Fruit Chips

          This one is for all my sweet toothed sweeties out there! I tried the apple chips above and wasn't a huge fan, but some of my friends liked them, so I thought that I would mention.  I personally am a fan of plantain chips: sweet and salty, and perfect for guacamole!  And we all know fruits are jam packed with antioxidants and vitamins, so the dehydrated version used as a chip is sure to follow suit.  Keep scrolling for my fave plantain chips and the serving info.

10. Popcorn

          Last, but certainly not least, the pop of the corn! A light, airy, crunchy snack.  This can be a super healthy and fun snack.  For one, it can be dressed so many ways: I personally love the creamy dill, kale, and jalapeño flavors! Just be sure to actually portion your snack out: because it's so light and airy, you're likely to overdue it.  One of my favorite brands is above and the serving info is below!

          I truly hope this helps you, or your friends, family, patients...whoever! If you are a health care provider, it's not enough to just scold our patients and say, "Don't eat this, don't eat that." We must take that extra altruistic step and help them find options! Preventative medicine and medicine focused on patient education is the way to a healthier future! Peace and love!