Are Popchips a Healthy Choice?

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Katy Perry likes them; so does Ashton Kutcher. They are described as “tinseltown’s favorite snack”. And their clever ad campaign is creative and fun, with tag lines such as:

  • “Love. Without the handles.”
  • “Less guilty. More pleasure.”
  • “Nothing fake about them.”
  • “Spare me the guilt chip.”

Finding snacks that taste good and are good for us is a worthy goal. But are Popchips really a healthy choice?

pop chips

On the plus side, they do not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms), unlike most snack chips. An employee assured me that the canola oil is GMO-free.  They also do not have any artificial colors or flavors, which is a good thing. However, they are made of potato flakes, potato starch, oil, rice flour, and salt.

pop chips 2

While these ingredients might not be “fake,” they are highly processed and this is a problem. Processed carbs quickly raise blood sugar.  Our body then produces insulin to lower it, triggering feelings of hunger, and potentially causing you to eat more.

Dr. Walter Willet from Harvard University says that, “… in fact, these kinds of starches–white bread, white rice, potatoes–are starches that are very rapidly converted to glucose, really pure sugar, and almost instantly absorbed into the bloodstream. And these are the kinds of carbohydrates that we really should be minimizing in our diets.”

Additionally, potatoes cause our blood sugar to go up even more than other foods. Dr. Willet also says, “Actually, careful studies have shown, demonstrated, that you get a bigger rise in blood sugar after eating potatoes, a baked potato, say, than you do from eating pure table sugar.”

A recent Harvard study has found that French fries and potato chips cause more weight gain than other foods. Other forms of potatoes also increased weight, even more so than desserts and sweets! “Love, without the handles,” is not sounding so plausible after all.

Since the potatoes in Popchips are highly processed, most of the vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber are lost. And 3 ounces have 570 mg of sodium (that’s more than ⅓ of the sodium some people should have for the whole day) and 360 calories. If you ate just 3 ounces of Popchips a day, and they were extra calories, you would potentially gain 36 pounds in a year! And it’s super easy to eat more than 3 ounces since most chip manufacturers make their snacks with just the right amount of salt and crunch so you have an intense desire to eat them.

“More pleasure?” Maybe. “Less guilt?” I don’t think so. If you are looking to find a healthy snack, chose real foods instead.

So what are your favorite healthy, whole food, snacks?


Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “Are Popchips a Healthy Choice?

  1. Just read the nyt article – you are to be thanked for raising the conflict of interest issue and shame on AND leaders for removing you

    Heather hanley rd

  2. POP chips are full of gmo’s too, chemical based oil extraction, and who knows what else. We get Kettle brand “when” we have chips. I hear that Utz brand and some other are non-gmo as well. There are alternatives, but people just need to read labels.

    • I got taken in with the “all natural”, but you cannot trust anything in marketing unless they write non-gmo on the packaging, or “expreller pressed” oils. Canola is 100% GMO inside the United States, so where are they sourcing it from, if its non-gmo? Companies need to fully disclose their ingredients and non-gmo right on the packaging to show they support real food. I was also very unhappy with the POP chips “potato ingredients” comment. Why not just real Potatoes?

  3. so he/she compared how potatoes, and starches are very bad for weight gain, etc.. but how does this “potato” product compare to your average lays potato chips? or corn chips.

    If this one is a fair amount better in that comparison, then I’m sold. Ill buy these from now on, but if they are about same then wtf ashton!

    • Interesting question, my answer is still eat whole foods! Forget this junk, which is pretending to be healthy when its not. Popchips have no trans fat, neither does Lay’s. And they both have similar grams of saturated fat. The difference is that Popchips have 4 grams of fat per ounce and Lay’s has 10. While less fat sounds good, this means the Popchips will make your blood sugar go up even more than Lay’s with all the negative metabolic consequences and desire to eat more down the line.
      So, how about nuts (in moderation, like a handful) or sugar snap peas with hummus, or baby carrots, or frozen grapes, or some strawberries? We are so hooked on salty snacks. Not a good trend for us!!!

  4. My mothers doctor told her to eat protein with her oatmeal, potatoes, etc. Because those go straight to the belly as you mentioned, but adding protein with say some nuts will trick the body to break down those foods differently so you dont have the spikes in blood sugar.

    “white bread, white rice, potatoes–are starches that are very rapidly converted to glucose, really pure sugar, and almost instantly absorbed into the bloodstream.”

    Does adding protein, say from nuts/chicken eliminate this problem? To me it sounds too easy to just add some protein and kapow..!, bad food now good?

    • Hi Zman,
      Protein does leave the stomach more slowly, however, eating protein does not make bad food good. Oatmeal has fiber, which slows down digestion. It is not a bad food. It is the white flour, white rice, sugar, sugary drinks, energy drinks….those are the foods to avoid.

  5. Thanks for posting this. It’s preventing me from purchasing a case of Pop Chips on “deal of the day” sale from Amazon right now.

    The thing I struggle with is that I want to snack on something a bit salty and maybe a bit spicy, and most importantly has that starchy crisp/crunchiness. I am just not a huge fan of snacking on raw vegetables.

    Is it a reasonable option to bake my own wholegrain crackers or something along those lines?

    • Thanks Jim. You could make your own with thinly sliced red potatoes on a baking pan with cooking spray and sprinkle them with red pepper, garlic powder, and other spices. I also like dehydrating veggies which makes for a very interesting snack. Unfortunately all the store bough stuff is manipulated with fat, sugar, and salt to make you crave it and go back for more. Popchips are very addictive, especially for me the BBQ flavor! I just stay away.

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  7. I think popchip is GMO cause they did not declare it. A lawsuit now iagainst Pepsi(I think) in CA for using the Natural wording even if it GMO.

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