You'd think you were at a farmers' market when shopping the snack aisle these days. Dozens of munchies are made from carrots, spinach, kale, and even exotic tropical vegetables. But scrutinize their ingredients and you'll find that vegetable coloring is all most of them have in common with produce. What could sound more virtuous than a brand called Veggie Booty--especially when the packaging advertises kale and spinach? The ingredients label reveals that vegetables are at the bottom of the list (that means they contribute less, by weight, than ingredients at the top of the list, like oil). Many of these seemingly healthful snacks are still loaded with calories: A 4-ounce bag of Hain Carrot Chips contains 600 calories--just as much as Lay's Classic potato chips.
When you simply must have chips, look for brands with vegetables at the top of the ingredients list. Terra Chips, for instance, contain decent amounts of taro, sweet potato, parsnip, batata, and other vegetables. A tip-off to a snack's healthfulness is its fiber content. One ounce of Terras contains 3 g of fiber--not bad for a snack food. They're no bargain in the calorie department, however: At 140 per ounce, they're almost the same as regular chips. If you're counting calories, baked potato chips--at 110 calories per serving--are a better choice.
Read the nutrition labels to determine the number of calories in a serving of veggie chips. Also check the label to find out if the veggie chips are baked or fried. While baked veggie chips likely contain fewer calories, they contain acrylamides, a substance that causes cancer in animals
An even healthier alternative? A handful of nuts, loaded with fiber, healthy oils, and vitamins and minerals; they'll even satisfy your urge to nibble. And if you want to be truly virtuous, go for the real thing: carrot sticks, jicama slices, lightly salted radishes, or roasted sweet peppers chilled in the refrigerator.