Can potato chip alternatives live up to health claims?

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

The US, UK and Japan are the top three markets for chips, according to Euromonitor.
The US, UK and Japan are the top three markets for chips, according to Euromonitor.

Related tags Nutrition Potato

As part of the growing chip industry, supermarkets aisles are now populated by alternatives to the traditional potato-based snack. But how much of their “healthy version” branding can be pinned down to actual nutritional evidence?

Vegetable, white bean, pinto bean, black bean, chickpea and lentil chips are now all available in mainstream supermarkets, and with these ingredient changes come an array of implied health benefits.

Healthy or just healthier?

Texas-based Beanitos, Inc is one company making such health claims with their white, black and pinto bean chips, describing itself as “a health-conscious entrepreneurial success story.”

Beanitos’ founder, Doug Foreman, said that the product meant “great snacking with no compromises and no more empty calories, like corn tortilla chips.”

Whilst it is true that Beanitos chips are certified non-GM, gluten-free and higher in fiber and protein than most other potato and corn chips, can any fried chip truly classify itself as healthy?

“They are lower in GI- glycemic index- than potato [chips] meaning they have less of an effect on your blood sugar levels,”​ registered dietician Jo Travers told 

Yet Travers warned that the chips are still fried in fat. “It’s unsaturated fat, not lard or anything like that, but they are still fried in sunflower oil so this will affect the calorie content.”

A 1 oz serving of Beanitos black bean chips with sea salt contains 140 calories, whilst the same serving of Lay’s classic potato chips contains 160 calories. 

Many manufacturers are now offering baked chip ranges in an effort to lower calories. Lay's baked original chips contain 120 calories per 1 oz serving, lower than both aforementioned varieties. 

Some air popped and baked chips may be good for consumers concerned about calories, Travers explained, yet unlike bean chips they offer little else in the way of nutrition aside from a bit of energy and fiber, or so called “empty calories”​.

“It depends on your perspective- if your priority is to lower your blood pressure or lose weight then the best option for you may be different,” ​said Travers.

A growing market

According to Euromonitor the global sales of chips which include fried, sliced chips made from potatoes, sweet potatoes or other vegetables was $27,177.6m in 2012, up from $19,778.2m in 2007. According to this research the top three markets for chips of this kind are the US, UK and Japan, with US sales reaching $7,285m in 2012. 

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