Healthier junk food: a sports nutritionist's 4 favorite chips

Junk food is never going to be categorized as “healthy.” But, really, as much as I like crisp kale chips (not kidding, roast them with olive oil & Mexican spices), they aren’t quite the same as Cheetos. Are Cheetos doing my body any favors, no, but they aren’t “bad.” Terrorists are bad. Pedophiles are bad. Food is food.

healthier-junk-foodGranted, some foods are better for your health than others. Sometimes, though, a carrot isn’t going to satisfy the need to crunch…you need a bag of chips.

Here are my 2 general guidelines…

  • if you’re truly craving the “junkiest” version of a snack, buy one of the smallest bags possible (many stores have a tiny 25 cent bag)
  • don’t regularly buy them for the house: you can’t inhale a Costco ginormo bag of crap if it isn’t in the pantry

So, where does that leave us? With “healthier” junk food.

No one said you have to give up chips, just quit the crap…

  1. choose non-GMO
  2. avoid artificial colors
  3. skip the no/low fat/sugar options

Fortunately, there are plenty of great options, and they’re readily available without spending your whole paycheck.

Of the four chip varieties: potato, vegetable, tortilla, and cheese curl here are my favorites…and they all meet the “quit the crap” criteria.

betterPotato Chip: Although potato chips aren’t my chip of choice, I do like a good bbq chip with (actually on) a sandwich. Boulder Canyon Hickory BBQ are a thick crunch and the perfect amount of heat. Not all of their flavors are non-GMO project verified, so be sure to check the package. Close second: Kettle Backyard BBQ

Veggie Chip: Can’t get enough sweet potato fries? Me too. That’s why I love Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato chip, and you won’t feel like you’ve dipped your hand in a vat of oil. Named for their son’s incredible story, mom & pop Jackson’s Honest brand is worth seeking out (Caputo’s and Fresh Thyme, local readers). Only 3 ingredients and 90% of your RDA of Vitamin A.

better-2Tortilla Chips: I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that Costco sells these addictive chips. I’m a little bit of a baby when it comes to heat…these Late July Jalapeno Lime tortilla chips are just outside my comfort zone…but so damn good! Perfect for on the go-you won’t need salsa for extra flavor. Best unflavored tortilla chip: el milagro kitchen style chips (now non-GMO project verified!).

Cheese Curls: No joke, Barbara’s Jalapeno Cheese Puffs are my snack crack. Don’t let the name confuse you, these are NOT puffy chips, they’re perfect Cheetos size for the best crunch. Remember, I’m a heat wimp and I don’t like blue cheese…BUT this combination of jalapeno, cheddar, and blue cheese works…too well. Even though they meet my “healthier” junk food criteria (though I would like to see the entire package non-GMO verified, not just the corn) these babies don’t make it into my weekly grocery cart- too addictive!

You know that friend who tells you if something is healthy(ish) it can’t taste good? Test these chips on them, they’ll be hooked.

By no means am I suggesting that any of these are a better choice than fruits and veggies…they’re simply a better for you junk food option. Even organic junk food is still junk food.

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