Are Tortilla Chips Healthy? Calories, Nutrition and Tips

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While tortilla chips can be a satisfying crunchy snack, they aren't the healthiest choice.
Image Credit: Allchonok/iStock/GettyImages

If you're looking for a crunchy, salty snack, Mexican tortilla chips fit the bill. As long as you don't eat too much, they can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan. When you're picking tortilla chips at the store, just watch out for sodium and trans fat ingredients.

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Tip

Tortilla chips can be a part of a healthy diet if you mind your portions. Some brands of tortilla chips may be high in sodium.

The USDA recommends that adults eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but reducing it further to 1,500 milligrams or less can reduce your risk of heart disease significantly, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Mexican Tortilla Chips Calories and Nutrition

Real Mexican tortilla chips from a restaurant or made at home are usually hand-cut and cooked in small batches, and this could affect their calorie and nutrient content. Most tortilla chip products you can buy will have similar nutritional value, depending on the manufacturing process and ingredients.

According to the USDA, a 1-ounce serving of white corn tortilla chips will give you:

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  • ​Calories​:​ 150
  • ​Total fat​:​ 8 g
    • ​Saturated fat​:​ 3.5 g
    • ​Trans fat​:​ 0 g
  • ​​Cholesterol​:​ 0 mg
  • ​Sodium​:​ 85.1 mg
  • ​Total carbs​:​ 18 g
    • ​​Dietary fiber​:​ 1 g
    • ​Sugar​:​ 0 g
  • ​Protein​:​ 2 g

Calories and Macros

Generally, a 1-ounce serving of Mexican corn tortilla chips has about 150 calories.

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  • Total fat​:​ A 1-ounce serving of tortilla chips has 8 grams of total fat, which includes 3.5 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
  • ​​Carbohydrates​:​ A 1-ounce serving of tortilla chips has 18 grams of carbs, which includes 1 gram of fiber and 0 grams of sugar.
  • ​Protein​:​ A 1-ounce serving of tortilla chips has 2 grams of protein.

Tortilla chips are not a significant source of any vitamins, minerals or other micronutrients.

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Other Types of Tortilla Chips

White corn, yellow corn and blue tortilla chips share about the same nutritional profile. Some blue corn tortilla chips may be slightly higher in protein and fiber, but it depends on the brand you buy. Flavored tortilla chips, such as Ranch, often contain more sodium, per the USDA.

Always read your product labels for accurate nutrition information.

How Many Calories Are In Chips and Salsa?

One of the most popular ways to eat tortilla chips is with a fresh salsa dip. Fresh salsa, or pico de gallo, is typically made by finely dicing some tomato, red onion, and jalapeno and seasoning with lime juice, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro.

Because salsa is made with fresh ingredients, it's not very high in calories, fat, protein or other nutrients. A 1-ounce serving of salsa has just about 5 calories (again, depending on how it's prepared), per the USDA.

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If you're eating them together as a snack, this brings your chips and salsa calories to about 155 calories if you stick to a single serving.

Keeping Tortilla Chips Healthy

Unflavored Mexican tortilla chips can be a part of a nutritious diet. Follow the tips below for incorporating them successfully.

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Control Calories With Small Portions

When it comes to munching on tortilla chips, it can be easy to ignore the recommended serving suggestion size. Eating twice or thrice the serving size of tortilla chips can easily happen, but a single serving has 150 calories. This can add up if you're not keeping track of how much you're eating.

Non-nutritive, processed foods should make up a very small amount of the calories in your diet, but an occasional snack probably won't harm you.

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Tip

Check the nutrition facts label on the specific brand of tortilla chips you buy — it usually states the estimated number of chips in one serving. This is usually between six and 10 chips.

Watch Out for These Fats

The amount of fat you'll get per serving varies by brand, but 1 ounce of generic tortilla chips has 8 grams of fat, per the USDA.

But fried snacks like tortilla chips often contain trans fat, which comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. This is typically done to give food products a longer shelf life, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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These fats are worse for your health than saturated fats because they increase bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and trigger inflammation, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

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To check if your tortilla chips have trans fat in them, look for any hydrogenated vegetable oils on the ingredient list.

Check the Sodium

You can enjoy tortilla chips if you stick with varieties that aren't heavily salted. An ounce of generic white corn tortilla chips will have around 86 milligrams of sodium, which isn't very significant.

Sodium is considered an essential mineral because the body needs it to function and doesn't produce it on its own. But, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk for heart problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A serving of tortilla chips can work in your diet as long as your total daily sodium doesn't exceed the recommended intake of 2,300 milligrams, per the AHA. If you have a heart condition, the AHA recommends eating no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.

More than 70 percent of the sodium that Americans eat comes hidden from packaged foods and restaurant meals, per the AHA. If you're trying to eat less sodium, opt for unsalted tortilla chips.

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Lightly salted or unsalted tortilla chips may not be bad for you, but flavored varieties could be worse for your health because they are higher in sodium.

For example, taco-flavored tortilla chips have 200 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA.

Healthy Alternatives to Try

The AHA suggests substituting baked unsalted tortilla chips for fried tortilla chips that are heavily salted or made with flavoring.

But if you're concerned about the health effects of eating tortilla chips, there are plenty of healthy tortilla chip alternatives you can enjoy. Homemade beet chips can be baked in the oven, as opposed to frying. Beets provide nutrients like fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Popcorn is another nutritious alternative, especially air-popped popcorn, according to Michigan State University. Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories, but also has lots of fiber.

Healthy Tortilla Chips We Love

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