The addicting flavor and crunch of chips can have one eating through an entire bag or can without realizing it! After all, Pringle's long-time slogan, “Once you pop, you just can't stop,” seems to hold some weight. Even if we tell ourselves that we will have only a handful, sometimes the addicting nature of these snacks can have us staring into an empty bag, wondering what happened. The same is true for our growing kids if we allow them! This is where making the healthiest choices about what sits in our pantry is essential. Therefore, looking at the unhealthiest chip brands for kids can help you make smart choices the next time you walk into the grocery store.
What are in These Chips Anyway?
Chips are highly addicting. The carbs and sugar tap into what is known as the pleasure center of our brains. It's true; we often crave instant satisfaction as humans. Studies have begun to examine how our food correlates with dopamine and its effect on our food choices.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released into our brains that singles a feel-good pleasure response. The release happens when our brains are anticipating a reward. The thing about dopamine is that it is effective very quickly. Therefore, seeking that pleasure response with food can become addicting, leading to more and more cravings for popular junk food. Yet, the junk food our bodies crave isn't healthy for us.
Unhealthy Ingredients in Chips
Sodium: Many unhealthy chip brands will be high in sodium. Sodium is a nutrient we need. However, too much of it can adversely affect our hearts and overall health.
Acrylamides: Acrylamide is a chemical found in foods after exposure to high heat levels. The amino acids and sugars form this compound. While more studies should be done, some animal studies show an increased risk of cancer when consuming acrylamides.
Trans fats: Trans fats can be natural and artificial. While it is okay to consume natural trans fats, artificial trans fats can lead to a higher risk of adverse health conditions. These health conditions include heart disease, increased LDL, and decreased Good cholesterol, HDL.
Artificial Flavors: While the FDA has approved artificial flavorings as safe, some people are still concerned with their adverse effects on others. These include possible weight gain and an increased risk of certain cancers.
High in Sugar: Unhealthy chips are also sometimes high in added sugar. Too much sugar is a bad thing and can adversely affect your child's health as they grow older. These risk factors include obesity, risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, acne, and even depression.
GMO: While foods that have been genetically modified are typically considered safe for consumption by the FDA, there are some concerns with the possible links to allergies and certain cancers.
Processed: Chips are processed foods, which means their original state has been modified. Overeating processed food can be bad for our overall health. It can lead to weight gain, risk of heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Having a Healthy Relationship With Food
These are not the only unhealthy ingredients in many chip brands either. Fat and preservatives are also essential to look out for. While not every chip brand on the shelves is unhealthy, we can start our kids off on the right path by helping them develop a healthy relationship with food. Offering healthy alternatives, avoiding food shaming, and talking openly about nutrients and how they contribute to our overall health are great places to start.
Chips, even the unhealthy brands, are okay in moderation. However, it can be hard to stop eating them once you start. Therefore, there is also a list of healthier alternatives to try out if your child loves the crunchiness of chips!
Unhealthy Chip Brands
Now, let's look at the unhealthiest chip brands on the shelves today. Of course, these brands are prevalent in most grocery stores. Off brands of these popular brands are also unhealthy as well. Be sure to pay attention to added sodium, ingredients, and preservatives. A lot of the time, the longer the ingredient list is, the unhealthier the food! (although this isn't always the case.)
Fritos boasts being gluten-free, with no preservatives or artificial flavors; it is still an ultra-processed chip brand. The sodium is 170 msg a serving for the original flavor. However, it will vary; the chili cheese flavor contains 210 mg of sodium!
Additionally, the ingredient list can be long depending on your flavor of Fritos. For example, Fritos's chili cheese contains various flavorings, citric acid, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, monosodium glutamate, and colorings.
Fritos offer very little nutritional value and fill you up on empty calories.
Cheetos come in several flavors and textures, including crunchy and puffy. Yet, this tasty snack is ultra-processed with minimal vitamins and minerals. While it offers a bit of iron, potassium, protein, and fiber, you are better off getting these nutrients from whole foods.
Original crunchy Cheetos contain 250 mg of sodium, artificial flavorings, and monosodium glutamate, which is MSG.
Doritos can be very highly addictive. It also comes in delicious flavors that are satisfying with a simple turkey sandwich. Yet, you'll gain more in the way of health by opting for a more nutritious chip altogether.
Sodium continues to be high in this chip brand, coming in at around 210 msg, yet it lacks any weighty nutrients that may be good for your body. The ingredient list is over 30, including artificial colorings like red 40, MSG, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, and more.
The classic potato chip has many fun and delicious flavors that entice adults and children alike.
While the original Lays potato chip contains fewer ingredients, it is still high in sodium and lacks essential nutrients. The more complex the flavoring of Lays, the longer the ingredient list will be.
Whether eating the original Funyuns or the Flaming Hot flavor, these chips offer little nutrients. They are high in sodium and contain MSG and various additional ingredients, like gum arabic, and dextrose.
While the original Ruffles contain less sodium than other chips on this list, around 150 msg, and is higher in potassium, 350 msg, it is not a great source of other vital nutrients.
If you choose any Ruffles to enjoy, the original flavor contains fewer ingredients.
“Once you pop, you can't stop.” Oh, how true this slogan seems! Whether it's simply a mind game or addictive, the Pringles can may empty quickly. The ingredients include maltodextrin, mono, and diglycerides.
While Pringles offers some potassium, 110 mg, it is not a good source of iron, dietary fiber, cholesterol, vitamin D, or many other essential vitamins and nutrients.
Pringles are also higher in sodium and are better as an occasional treat than an everyday snack.
More Unhealthy Chip Brands to Avoid
While the chip brands on the list above are more popular, some additional brands are just as unhealthy and could be limited or avoided as a snack for your kids. However, the healthiness will depend on some of these brands' flavors and additional ingredients. These include:
- Veggie Straws
- Snyder's of Hanover (I know it's a pretzel brand, but as an alternative, some flavors are still not very healthy!)
Healthy Alternatives to Try
If you are looking for healthier choices as a snack for your child, give one of these options a chance.
- Kale chips
- Zucchini chips
- Sweet potato chips
- Baked banana slices
- Orville Redenbacher's popcorn
- Dried Granny Apple Chips
- Apples and peanut butter
- Fresh vegetable slices
- Nuts or trail mix
- Cauliflower chips
- Carrots and ranch
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