The healthiest choice in chips and dips

Summer’s not summer without salty snacks, so which options deliver on goodness as well as taste? Nutritionist Nicola Deed fills us in.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t love chips and dip?
No wonder supermarkets dedicate entire aisles to the stuff.
Given we’ll all be taking them to parties and barbies this summer, chip-and-dip nutrition should not be overlooked.
How many chips should you be eating? And with how much dip? Are some better for your health than others?
The standard serving size on the nutrition label of chip packets is 20-40g. That’s 13-16 chips. Who actually eats that and stops (let alone counts them)?
Family-size bags might be cost-effective, but they can be a dietary disaster. If you’re eating them at a social occasion or just watching TV, you’re vulnerable to overconsumption and mindless eating.
Given that eating a packet of chips a day can add up to the equivalent of drinking almost five litres of cooking oil a year, this is not a good thing.
When choosing chips and dip…
Check out the ingredients lists and labels. Pick the products with the fewest, most natural ingredients and less than 10g of saturated fat and sugar per 100g.
How often should you eat them?
During the summer months, chips and dip are an easy go-to option, but I won’t be including chips in my meal plans any time soon. Although there are some good ‘healthy’ options around these days, such as brown rice chips, aim to keep them strictly as a treat food if possible.
If you choose a good hummus or salsa, as long as you control your portion sizes, there’s no harm in having dip as part of your regular diet – eat it with vege sticks. I also recommend making your own. Whipping up some salsa or guacamole is simple and a whole lot better for you.
Here's what you need to know...
Mexicano Corn Chips – Natural
Nutritional info: Energy 2038kJ; protein 6.2g; fat 26.1g; saturated fat 10.3g; carbohydrate 56.8g; sugar 0.2g; sodium 0mg.
Old faithful corn chips containing nothing but corn and vegetable oil – with an ingredient list like that, how can these not be our winner? They don’t contain any sodium, have only 0.2g of sugar and rate among the lowest for energy and carbs and highest for protein.
ETA Uppercuts Corn Tapas – Quinoa & chia
Nutritional info: Energy 2110kJ; protein 5.7g; fat 25.6g; saturated fat 2.3g; carbohydrate 59.2g; sugar 1.1g; sodium 394mg.With 3 per cent quinoa and 2 per cent chia seeds, these have one of the lowest sugar and saturated fat contents. Not bad.
Sunny hill Kumara Chips – Original
Nutritional Info (Per 100G): Energy 2010kJ; protein 3.2g; fat 23.1g, saturated fat 10.7g; carbohydrate 60.1g; sugar 23.1g; sodium 190mg.These have the lowest energy content and low fat and sodium too. But being kumara, they have the highest sugar content (5.8 teaspoons). They might seem like a good choice, but if you don’t burn off the sugar, you’ll store it as fat.
Sunrice Brown Rice Chips – Sweet Chilli
Nutritional info: Energy 2060kJ; protein 7.1g; fat 21.1g; saturated fat 1.9g; carbohydrate 65.8g; sugar 4.7g; sodium 620mg.
These are flavoured, so they have one of the highest sodium contents and longest ingredient lists. On a positive note, they contain the most protein and the least fat. The plain version would be a good choice.
Solay Potato Crisps – Sea Salt
Nutritional info: Energy 2200kJ; protein 5.1g; fat 34g; saturated fat 15.3g, carbohydrate 50.3g; sugar less than 1g; sodium 390mg.
The only potato chips in the line-up have the highest fat content of the lot, but they do get brownie points for containing the lowest amount of carbohydrate and sugar. Compared to other potato chips, they have fewer ingredients and claim to have “80 per cent less saturated fat”.
Homebrand Cassava Vegetable Crisps – Original
Nutritional info: Energy 2220kJ; protein 1g; fat 30.4g; saturated fat 2.5g; carbohydrate 63.3g; sugar 8.1g; sodium 790mg.
What a deceiving name – aren’t all chips made of vegetables? Don’t be fooled into thinking these are a healthier choice – they contain the most sodium and energy among those profiled here and rank among the highest for fat, carbs and sugar. But credit where credit’s due: their saturated fat content is low.
Now, for the dips
Smartest overall choice
The Good Taste Co Tomato, Capsicum & Chilli Salsa
Nutritional info: Energy 585kJ; protein 1.1g; fat 12.3g; saturated fat 0.8g; carbohydrate 5.8g; sugar 2.4g; sodium 465g.
With the least amount of energy, carbohydrate, saturated fat and sugar and ranking among the lowest for fat, this salsa is a sure-fire win. It’s also a solid 40 per cent tomato and 34 per cent capsicum.
Lisa’s Toppings Hummus with Dukkah & Roasted Pistachio
Nutritional info (Per 100g): Energy 1634kJ; protein 8.3g; fat 30.4g; saturated fat 4g; carbohydrate 17.9g; sugar 3.2g; sodium 615mg.
The dukkah and roasted pistachios in this dip mean it ranks among the highest of those featured here for protein content. This is a great hummus with minimal ingredients.
Just Hummus with Beetroot & Roasted Garlic
Nutritional info: Energy 660kJ; protein 5.3g; fat 8.1g; saturated fat 0.8g; carbohydrate 13.4g; sugar 5.6g; sodium 390mg.
With 48 per cent chickpeas and 29 per cent beetroot, I’m surprised there isn’t more sugar in this. It’s high carb, but has the least fat and saturated fat, ranks low for energy and sodium, and comes with a Heart Foundation tick.
Lisa’s Aubergine & Cashew
Nutritional info: Energy 1810kJ; protein 4g; fat 37.5g; saturated fat 8.5g; carbohydrate 10.9g; sugar 7.8g; sodium 418mg.
This contains a lot of fat, but I really like that the Lisa’s brand uses only a small number of ingredients and preservatives/additives. This has 48 per cent aubergine and 15 per cent cashews.
Mediterranean Chunky Dip Sundried Tomato with Cashews & Parmesan
Nutritional info: Energy 2360kJ; protein 9.2g; fat 50g; saturated fat 5.3g; carbohydrate 19g; sugar 8.8g; sodium 730mg.
No wonder this has one of the highest fat contents – the main ingredient is canola oil and it’s 24 per cent cashews. It also has the highest carb and sodium content and the second highest sugar content. It does have the most protein of all of these dips, though.
The Good Taste co Garlic & Onion Kiwi Dip
Nutritional info: Energy 1510kJ; protein 2.8g; fat 36.2g; saturated fat 11.4g; carbohydrate 6.6g; sugar 3.9g; sodium 470mg.
Unfortunately, this dip has the longest ingredients list and the most additives, preservatives and stabilisers, so it isn’t something I’d recommend – the cleaner, the better, I say. It has the highest saturated fat content, which is no surprise when the main ingredient is sour cream (36 per cent). On the plus side, it contains the least carbs.
Mediterranean Chunky Dip Basil Pesto with Cashews & Parmesan
Nutritional info: Energy 2290kJ; protein 9.1g; fat 51.1g; saturated fat 5.7g; carbohydrate 13.1g; sugar 2.5g; sodium 445mg.
Again, with the first ingredients canola oil and 41 per cent cashew nuts, it’s clear why this has the highest fat content. But I am pleased to see the low sugar content and the short ingredient list.
Just Hummus with Roasted Carrot & Honey
Nutritional info: Energy 1040kJ; protein 3.7g; fat 18g; saturated fat 1.3g; carbohydrate 15.7g; sugar 11.4g; sodium 385mg.
With 40 per cent carrot and 4 per cent honey, it’s a given that the sugar content of this dip would be high. On the flipside, though, it has less sodium than all the other dips featured here. It’s an interesting mix of ingredients and flavours.
The smartest choice for me is…
The Mexicano Natural Corn Chips here have the fewest ingredients – only corn and vegetable oil – and they’re one of the best options in terms of nutritional content.
The dips are a little more complicated. I’d pick The Good Taste Co Tomato, Capsicum & Chilli Salsa. With a pretty good ingredients list and the least energy, saturated fat, carbs and sugar, for me, it’s a winner.
Words: Nicola Deed, Nutritionist at FoodFight
For more, see the December issue of Good Health Choices

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