This week instead of tackling Fun Food Saturday we shifted over to Taste Test Sunday. We’re not big on junk foods here at the Jolly Tomato household, but every now and then we just want something savory and crunchy to serve with a sandwich. We thought we’d break away from the traditional potato chips and corn chips and taste-test a few chip alternatives from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Plus we had a house full of boys who were willing guinea pigs for the experiment. What better way to spend a weekend afternoon? The candidates included:
Trader Joe’s Crunchy Curls (a lentil/potato snack): For 31 curls: 130 calories, 4. 5 g fat, 380 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 3 g protein, 6 percent DV iron
Trader Joe’s Vegetable Root Chips: For 16 chips: 160 calories, 10 g fat, 35 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein, 2 percent DV iron
Trader Joe’s Baked Lentil Chips: For 22 chips: 120 calories, 2. 5 g fat, 220 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, less than 1 g sugar, 4 g protein, 6 percent DV iron
Trader Joe’s Cassava Chips: For 23 chips: 150 calories, 7 g fat, 170 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein, 0 percent DV iron.
Terra Sweets & Carrots from Whole Foods: For 13 chips: 150 calories, 9 g fat, 20 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein, 2 percent DV iron.
Eden Brown Rice Chips from Whole Foods: For 50 chips: 150 calories, 7 g fat, 100 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 2 g protein, 2 percent DV iron.
The Crunchy Curls seemed to pack the most nutrition per serving, but for some reason (even with the attractive curly shape) they didn’t hold much appeal to the kids. Comments included “plain” and “flat.” At a later meal, we even tried sitting them out in a bowl for people to grab but we didn’t have any takers. We’re not likely to buy these again, because, well, there’s no good reason to push chips down their throats. Side note: While trying to think of what we might use the rest of the bag for, we realized they might be tasty as soup toppers. Grade: D
The Vegetable Root Chips got a very enthusiastic reception, possibly because they were closest to potato chips: perfectly thin-crispy and very lightly salted. Our pickiest eater decided he loved the red chips, and the adults did a secret high-five because we thought we had suddenly gotten him to eat beets. But further investigation on the package revealed that they’re not beets; they’re sweet potatoes colored with beet juice. Hmmm…Grade: B+
The Baked Lentil Chips got a thumbs-up from the adults in the crowd but the kids couldn’t manage more than a bite: “Too spicy!” And yes, they have both black and white pepper in them. So the chips are probably a no-go with the kids from now on, but they might make a nice alternative dipper for our next chip-and-dip function. Grade: B
The Cassava Chips were Jolly Tomato’s secret favorite…and we were tempted to sneak off into another room and eat them all by ourselves. In fact, the level of chips in this bowl is a little low because we, er, felt compelled to sample them once more before we took the picture. They had a nice salty-sweet taste, and possibly because they really look like potato chips they got good marks from the kids. True, as the only chips with added sugar, they’re not the most nutritious of the bunch, but if we were looking for a great chip alternative we’d almost certainly try this one again. Grade: B
The Sweets & Carrots (sweet potato and carrot chips boasting “a full serving of vegetables in every ounce”) were undeniably tasty, although the carrot pieces in particular were not especially crunchy. The kids thought they were “decent” and “chewy,” with more of a dried-fruit kind of texture. If we served these alongside sandwiches one day, the kids would probably eat them without complaint, but we wouldn’t ever be able to pass them off as “real” chips. We’re not super-concerned about the sugar content; there’s no added sugar beyond what occurs naturally in the vegetables. Grade: A-
The Brown Rice Chips (wheat-free, by the way) were just a curiosity more than anything else. When our first kid tester saw them, he held them up and said, “These are like air – You can see right through them!” The serving size is 50 chips, which is completely baffling to us because we can’t imagine eating more than, say, three at one time. They’re basically puffed rice circles; kind of airy and with little green flecks (seaweed). Our littlest taste-tester gave them the most back-handed compliment we’ve heard: “These taste good – I think the birds might like them.” Grade: C-
Conclusion? Of course there’s no need for chips in your diet. But if you must have chips and you want to try something different, the root- and legume-based chips are a tasty alternative. And of course, if you’re so inclined, you could always make your own potato chips.
Taste Test Sunday: Because food should be fun (and taste good too).