Q. Instead of regular chips, I now give my kids veggie chips because I feel they are more nutritious. Is this correct?
A. You are not alone in wondering if that bag of veggie chips or fruit and vegetable blend juice truly delivers your five servings of fruits and vegetables, as the package claims. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advertising we read on food packaging:
- “Eat your vegetables…one chip at a time”
- “Enriched with carrot, tomato and spinach pasta blend. With a full serving of vegetables per 4 oz. portion”
- In an “8 ounce glass you get a full serving of vegetables plus a full serving of fruit with antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E”
Check the Ingredients of Your Veggie Chips
Who wouldn’t want to eat or drink these products when health experts advise us to eat more fruits and vegetables? The food industry makes it easy for consumers to get their recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables using powders, extracts and super-concentrates. But are we truly getting all of the nutrients that these packages claim?
To answer these questions, we looked at the ingredients in veggie chips and found that there’s more dried potato than any other ingredient; more tapioca starch than beet, spinach, pumpkin, tomato or red bell pepper powder; and more salt than kale powder. In short, your veggie chips are coming from mainly dried potato and veggie powders or flours. If the ingredients list “vegetable solids from dried vegetables,” in reality, dried vegetables are actually vegetable powders.
In some juices, the ingredients come from sweet potato and carrot concentrates, and the full serving of fruit that’s advertised comes from mostly apple and grape juice concentrates. So even if concentrates provide “some” of the vitamins and minerals, they are not as nutritious as eating whole fruit.
Nothing Beats Eating the Real Thing
Vegetables are low in calories because they are mostly water; therefore, eating the dry version of a vegetable will not give you the full benefit simply because you aren’t getting the water content.
When you replace some of the ingredients in a dish with whole vegetables, you lower the number of calories without losing the fullness factor. For example, when you add carrots and peas to your brown rice, odds are you’ll eat less rice but feel full.
On the other hand, veggie powders in veggie chips do not reduce the number of calories you consume, and you may overeat on the chips thinking that you are eating a nutritious snack.
Always remember to read the ingredients on the food label, and aim to eat more whole fruits and vegetables and less processed versions of them." - Laura Walker
It takes planning and dedicating blocks of time to cut up fruits and veggies and cook meals, but once they are there in your fridge, you can just grab and go!
Are you a fan of veggie chips? Leave us a comment to tell us how you snack healthy, and be sure to check back every Tuesday for the latest Ask the Dietitian topic.