The latest trend on health-food store shelves and among CrossFitters and food hipsters: Potato chips made from anything other than potatoes. Kale chips, apple chips, beetroot chips, root-vegetable chips – you name a potato-like alternative, and you can probably find a chip made from it. But many chip substitutes have just as many of calories, if not more, than the white-spud standby. So before you slap down a small fortune for Swiss chard chips, it pays to read the nutrition label to make sure you're really getting a healthier snack. Don't want to compare labels? Go for the guaranteed: Bean chips. Chips made from beans may sound odd, but they have more fiber and protein than vegetable-based chips, and some even have higher antioxidant levels. Here's the lowdown on four brands to look for.
The packaging may look budget and the marketing efforts nil, but the flavor and crunch of Flamous Falafel Chips, based on the savory Middle Eastern snack, falafel, are astounding. If you see them in the supermarket, buy them. Why? Because despite being inspired by deep-fried chickpea patties, the health value of this snack gets the highest mark of any chip out there: They're made entirely from organic, non-genetically modified whole beans, vegetables, oil, and herbs. One serving has just 120 calories (40 fewer calories than Classic Lay's), and 4 grams each of fiber and protein (Lay's have only 1 gram fiber and 2 grams protein). Better still, one serving of spicy chips has 10 times the antioxidant value as a cup of green tea. And what about the taste? A small piece of falafel heaven, with a wonderfully spicy, satisfying crunch. The brand also makes a spicy version of the original for those who want more heat.
Beanitos may not have the most appealing name, but the taste and nutrition are right on the money. Made from whole beans – rather than bean flour – and rice, Beanitos have at least 5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving. The line includes chips made from white, black, and pinto beans, with a total of six flavors. If you're looking for something surprisingly spicy, try the Chipotle BBQ Black Bean – a welcome change from the sickly sweet potato version. These chips are thinner than Flamous's falafels, so the crunch may not be quite as satisfying to those who like to chomp, but they're nevertheless a tasty alternative that's far healthier than your standard chip.
The bean-chip category is getting so big that even mega health-food manufacturer Kashi just got into the game with its new Kashi Hummus Crisps. With three flavors to choose from – Caramelized Onion, Sundried Tomato, Feta & Basil, and regular Sea Salt & Olive Oil – these crispy chips have a flavor point for everyone. With just 120 calories and 4 grams of fiber and at least 3 grams of protein per serving, Hummus Crisps are healthier than potato chips, but the ingredient list is a tad longer than we'd like, and includes some unnecessary ingredients like wheat (must this be in everything?) and additives like soy lecithin. That said, the Caramelized Onion flavor is a full-flavor treat that leaves a little dusting of onion powder on your fingers (if you like the orange-finger Cheetos effect), and you can mindlessly eat more of these chips, with 27 crisps per serving.
Mediterranean Snacks Baked Lentil Chips are made primarily from lentil, garbanzo, and adzuki bean flours, and have the least "beany" taste of all chips featured here. This crunchy-salty snack's nutrition is similar to the other three here, with approximately 120 calories, 3 grams fiber, and 4 grams protein per serving, but since these chips are baked, they have only 3 grams of fat per serving – not necessarily a healthful attribute. That's because the more fat a snack has, as long as it's not the heart-clogging trans fat kind, the more it will help fill you up. But Lentil Chips have six well-seasoned flavors to choose from, and since the flavor is mild and the texture light and airy, these chips are more suitable for dipping than the others listed here.