DEAR PEGGY: I know that chips are not a very healthy snack choice, but stores are now offering more options. I see baked and organic or all-natural versions of many popular chips. Are they any better for you? And if so, which is the healthiest—baked or natural? —D.C., Waldorf, Maryland
You're right—grocery stores are carrying new snack foods all the time, and chips are no exception. Many of the snacks labeled as "natural" or "organic" market themselves as a healthy alternative, but it's important to look at the overall picture and consider what's important to you.
Foods labeled with an official USDA organic seal must use ingredients produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and follow practices to conserve the soil and water. Among other qualifications, organic food is produced without most conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients. The term "natural" is not interchangeable with "organic"; it simply means the food doesn't contain artificial ingredients and is minimally processed.
A few points to consider:
- Snack chips provide little nutrition for the calories and fat they contain, so they should be eaten in moderation.
- If sodium is a concern, reading food labels to find the lowest-sodium chip may be more important than choosing a natural or organic chip.
- If you're trying to limit fat, a baked chip would be a better option than one that's fried.
- If you prefer environmentally friendly foods without additives, preservatives or artificial colors or flavors, natural or organic chips may be a good choice for you.