Potato Chips Nutrition

Let’s face it, people like potato chips. No wonder grocery stores dedicate a whole aisle for all variations of chips. A popular snack, a sandwich side dish and a main component of parties, potato chips nutrition should not be overlooked. How many potato chips should you eat? Are there types that are better for health than others? What about their salt content?

potato chips in bowl
A bowl of potato chips on a table. (Image: myibean/iStock/Getty Images)

Portions Reality

The standard serving size for potato chips on nutrition labels is 1 oz.--that is 13 to 16 chips.

If you’re wondering who eats that and stops, let alone who counts, then the message hit home. There is a huge discrepancy between what people read on labels and what they eat. Family-size potato chips bags, while cost-effective, can be a nutrition disaster. People who eat potato chips around friends or while watching TV are vulnerable to overconsumption and mindless eating.

Habit or Treat

Whether you can eat potato chips depends on your eating habits and health goals. Potato chips often take over as snacks for fruits and vegetables--which people don’t get enough of as is. For weight loss, skipping the daily individual-size potato chip bag can shed more than a pound a month. Imagine how much weight you can lose if you tend to eat more than a single serving. If potato chips are a once-in-a-while food that doesn’t hinder your fruit and vegetable intake or weight loss effort, then a sensible portion can fit into your diet.

Salt

It all boils down to portions, the sodium content of the specific potato chips and the amount of other high-salt foods in your diet. Lay’s brand Salt and Vinegar chips contain 380 mg of sodium per ounce, while the Classic variety has 180 mg. Eat three or four times the serving size, and your sodium intake will pile up.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends healthy people to take in no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day. Add processed and canned foods in addition to potato chips to your daily diet, and you’ve already passed your limit.

Baked and Reduced-Fat

Baked and reduced-fat versions of potato chips contain fewer calories and fat--but they still contain them, and they don’t always provide a healthy snack. A 1 oz. serving of Lay’s brand baked potato chips has 120 calories and 2 g of fat, compared to 150 calories and 10 g for the Classic variety. Reduced-fat Pringles contain 130 calories and 7 g of fat compared to 150 calories and 9 g in the Original variety. Read labels, compare products, make a smart decision and watch your portions.

Fat-Free

Olestra is a fat substitute used in fat-free potato chips, which contain half the calories of regular chips and no fat grams per ounce. If you want more volume for the same calories, fat-free chips are an option.

Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Baton Rouge found that substituting regular-fat snacks with fat-free ones made with olestra for nine months, as part of a low-fat diet, significantly reduced weight. However, eating olestra-based products on a regular basis interferes with the body's absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. The Pennington researchers found that a multivitamin restored vitamin A and E levels but not beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein, anti-oxidants your body needs to fight disease and inflammation.

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