How healthy are baked snacks?

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Baked snacks, such as baked crisps, are prevalent in the snacks market. Image Source: Getty Images/ugurhan
Baked snacks, such as baked crisps, are prevalent in the snacks market. Image Source: Getty Images/ugurhan

Related tags baked snacks Crisps Baked potato chips

Baked snacks, from baked fruit to baked crisps, are a key part of modern snacking. But how healthy are they, really?

You might think of breads and pastries when you think of 'baked' snacks. Now, however, baked snacks are expanding to include all sorts of things, from baked crisps to baked fruit.

Does this baking have any affect on the health of these products? If so, how significant is it?

Is baked fruit healthy?

Baked fruits are a very different way to consume fruit compared with fresh fruit. Not only is the texture and taste different, but the presentation is more like a packet of crisps than fresh fruit.

The key to the product, however, is not the packaging but the health content. How much does the baking process change the healthiness of the fruit?

There are pros and cons to baking, suggested Sophie Medlin, dietician for the British Dietic Association for London. “Baking fruit, especially at high temperatures, can cause some of the vitamins and minerals to be lost,” she told FoodNavigator.

Vegetable crisps: A healthier alternative?

While vegetable crisps​ are often perceived by consumers as a healthier alternative, this is in fact not the case.

While potato crisps are higher in protein and vegetable crisps higher in fibre, the overall health content does not differ that much between them, nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed recently told FoodNavigator. Both, for example, are high in saturated fats and salt.

Baking, she suggested, is much better than boiling for retaining nutrients. Furthermore, "baking fruit can cause some nutrients to be more easily available to us by breaking down some of the cell walls and releasing the nutrients, making them easier to access and absorb.”

Some nutrients can be lost in the baking process. “Vitamins and healthful plant compounds like polyphenols are very sensitive to heat meaning they can be denatured and lost. If fruit is baked at a low enough temperature however, this shouldn’t cause significant losses.”

Medlin stressed that this should not dissuade consumers from eating baked fruits, as they still come out ahead of many other snacks in the health department. “Baked fruit still contains useful nutrients as well as fibre and will be much healthier for you than other dessert or snack options so it shouldn’t be discounted just because a few of the nutrients have been reduced.”

Are baked crisps healthier than other crisps?

Baked crisps are an alternative to the traditional fried crisps. Some key crisp brands have produced baked versions of many of their most popular flavours. But are baked crisps a healthier alternative?

“Baked crisps will have less oil than their fried counterparts and the temperature will be lower in cooking, meaning the oils are healthier,” Medlin told us.

However, she stressed that this does not make them ‘healthy’. “Unfortunately, baked crisps are still an ultra-processed food​​ so not something that should be consumed regularly.”

That the processing of a food product is inherently linked to its ‘healthiness’ is hotly debated​, but it’s widely acknowledged that overconsumption processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) is linked to poor health outcomes.

According to Medlin, as a general rule baked crisps still contain the same amount of salt as other crisps, and could even contain more flavourings with more processing to make them tasty. Typically, they would be considered an HFSS food, due to a high salt content, she suggested.

But the baked crisp category has also been touched by reformulation and innovation, with non-HFSS brands including PepsiCo-owned Walkers, Popchips, and Simply Roasted.

Related topics Snacks Science

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