You may have noticed a trend in the snack aisle. Suddenly, next to the potato chips, there are packs of “snap pea crisps” and “veggie straws.” The bags often display farmers, fields, and sunny skies, next to bold claims that the snacks are lower in dietary fat and “made from real veggies.”
Puffed veggie snacks often mimic the flavor of their fresh counterparts, and sometimes even the shape. Are they a nutritional match as well?
Regardless of the shape of the puffed veggie snack, most of them are made the same way. The vegetable is dried out, then ground into a starchy powder. It’s often mixed with another flour at this point (often rice flour, to keep it gluten-free), and then combined with seasoning, like garlic and onion powder.
Then, oil is added to this dry mix in order to form a paste, and the mixture is shaped into the desired mold. These trendy puffed veggie snacks are typically baked instead of fried, allowing them to be lower in fat.
So are they healthy?
Let’s put it this way: Puffed veggie snacks are healthier than classic potato chips, but it’s not like eating real veggies. In other words, they fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
Even though the veggie snacks are baked instead of fried, they contain oil in their “batter,” and they end up being only slightly lower in fat than actual potato chips. Check out these numbers for comparison:
1 oz of classic potato chips contains 9.5 g of fat.
1 oz of “veggie straws” contains 7 g of fat.
1 oz of puffed snap peas contains 5 g of fat.
Looking beyond fat, puffed veggie snacks also tend to be lower in calories and higher in fiber. For example, 1 oz of the puffed snap peas has 5 g of fiber, which is almost 20 percent of your recommended daily intake. These are definite perks of the puffed veggie snacks.
However, make no mistake—these processed snacks are far from the original veggies. Real snap peas have *no* fat, and have just 10 calories per ounce. Plus, they’re full of important vitamins and minerals that get lost in processing, These snacks prove why the claim “made from real veggies” isn’t as good as it sounds. (Learn more misleading health claims on food packaging here.)
If you love ‘em, go ahead and swap your greasy chips for healthier puffed veggie snacks, but don’t forget about real fruits and veggies for the optimal snack.