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Salty snacks.

Salty Snacks

C'mon. Admit it. Every once in a while, say at a party or when they're piled on your sandwich plate, you reach for a potato chip or two.

I do. I've also been seen in the company of the occasional pretzel or tortilla chip.

But I'm not going to make any snack manufacturer rich. Neither are most Nutrition Action Healthletter readers.

Somebody is, though. Americans bought more than $8 billion worth of potato chips, pretzels, corn chips, tortilla chips, and miscellaneous snacks (excluding nuts and popcorn) last year.

That's why we recently took a look at more than 100 "salty" snacks. While most are not particularly healthful, many of us--or our kids--eat them. At the very least, we ought to know which are the best...and worst.

Pretzels. If fat were our only worry, we could eat all the pretzels we want.

That's because they're baked--not fried--with little or no added fat. In fact, the fattiest pretzels we found (Barbara's Whole Wheat) have only three grams per one-ounce serving (one large pretzel, or several small ones). That's half the fat of the least fatty potato chip.

It's the salt you've got to watch out for.

Unless the label says "unsalted," you're getting a good dose of sodium. Gibble's Old Fashion Thins and Barbara's 9 Grain were the only salted pretzels with less than 250 milligrams of sodium per ounce.

Most brands were in the 500's, and Snyder's Stixs topped the salt chart with 900 mg. per one-ounce serving.

If you get 900 mg. of sodium in a handful of pretzels, there's no way you're going to stay below the recommended 2,400 mg. for an entire day.

If unsalted pretzels taste like cardboard to you, try salted ones, but scrape off the salt with your finger. Since it's almost all on the surface, you'll bring the sodium down yet keep a little zip in the taste.

Potato Chips. There's just no getting around it: potato chips are fatty.

The lowest-fat chips we found--Ruffles Light--have six grams of fat per one-ounce serving. (They're still being test marketed.) Most chips fall into the eight, nine, or ten gram-per-serving range, and get 50 to 60 percent of their calories from fat.

That means just 15 chips provide 15 percent of the fat the average person should consume in an entire day. A single, one-ounce serving of some (Pringle's Regular or Cheezums) have as much as 13 grams of fat. That's 69 percent of calories from fat.

It's important to read chip packages carefully. For example, lest you assume that Keebler Tato Skins are fried potato skins: "dehydrated potato peel" is the eighth ingredient. It comes after the vegetable shortening, dehydrated potatoes, potato starch, corn, sugar, salt, and potassium chloride...just before the MSG.

Also, don't be taken in by packages with "no-cholesterol" claims on them. It's just an advertising gimmick. As long as the chip has been fried in vegetable oil, it has no cholesterol. (Few chips are fried in animal fats or saturated tropical oils. That goes for tortilla and corn chips as well.)

As for fiber, no chips--potato, tortilla, or corn--meet the two-gram minimum required for a food to be called a "source."

Tortilla Chips. Fat-wise, they're worse than pretzels but slightly better than potato chips. That's because most tortilla chips are first baked and then fried. The baking removes moisture, so there's less liquid for the frying oil to replace.

The best tortilla chip we found isn't fried at all. It's baked. Doritos Light Nacho and Cool Ranch chips (currently being test marketed) have only four grams of fat per ounce. That's a decent 30 percent of calories from fat.

Other tortilla chips have up to eight grams of fat per ounce. Percent of calories from fat ranges from 40 to 50.

Corn Chips. There's trouble in Frito-land...fat trouble.

The leanest corn chips we came across (Fritos Dip Size or Bar-B-Q) had nine grams of fat in a one-ounce serving. The greasiest had 11 grams stuffed into 160 calories.

Just think of corn chips as potato chips without the modest dose of vitamin C you get from potatoes--even deep-fried ones.

Miscellaneous. Abandon all dictionaries, ye who enter here. Welcome to the world of "Funyuns," "Doo Dads," and "Kruncheez."

Most of them look like styrofoam packing material that fell into a vat of day-glo paint.

Again, don't be fooled by misleading names. Barbara's Cheese Puff Lights and Health Valley Carrot Lites each contain at least ten grams of fat per one-ounce serving. Health Valley's Cheddar Lites have eight. Also, Health Valley's packages boast "baked, not fried." But "puffs" are rarely fried.

As for other nutrients in the Carrot Lites, don't believe the "high in fiber" claim on the package. There's only 0.9 grams per ounce. You do get ten percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A, but a single carrot will give you 400 percent--without the fat.

The brightest spot in the miscellanea is American Grains Rice Bites. They have only 3 to 4 grams of fat per ounce, and get just 21 to 26 percent of their calories from fat. Their major ingredients (brown rice, rice syrup, cheese powder, and oil for the "Exotic Pepper & Cheese" flavor) don't supply more than two percent of the USRDA for any vitamins or minerals. But they're tasty (our bags emptied in minutes).

The San Francisco-based company only falls short with one claim. The package says "good source of fiber," but the label reveals only 0.4 mg. (that's 0.0004 grams!) per ounce. They must mean 0.4 grams, although the company couldn't tell us.

Well, nobody's perfect.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:sodium and fat levels of snack foods
Author:Schmidt, Stephen B.
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:May 1, 1989
Previous Article:Palm oil: can PR pay off?
Next Article:Heart smarts.

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