Generally speaking, pretzels and chips can be quite
damaging for weight control. They are fairly caloric, which means that the recommended serving sizes are fairly small. On the other hand, these food items possess what I call "addictive potential", i.e. they generate
the drive of eating more. As such, it's quite easy to exceed the recommended serving size and rack up the
calorie count. You may have noticed the large chip- and pretzel-bags that dominate the selection on
the grocery shelves. This, of course, happens for a reason: The goal is to keep you dipping in the bag until it's nice and empty, at which point circumstances are ripe for the purchase of another bag.
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Therefore, my recommendation is to stay away from this aisle altogether.
Lets now review a few of the regular products out there:
One possible exception to the rule above: Chips made with 'Olestra / Olean' oil (which cannot be absorbed through the intestine wall, so that the fat calories delivered into the body are reduced to zero). Olestra consists of sucrose combined with 8 molecules of fatty
acids. It has the taste and texture of fat, but its molecules are too big to be digested and absorbed.
Therefore, they are eliminated in the stool unchanged. A side effect of this fact is a somewhat
fatty consistency of the stool, which may represent a problem for some. Also, certain fat-soluble
vitamins such as vitamin D, A, K, and E may bind to Olestra in the bowel and be eliminated
along with it in the stool. Since the absorption of these vitamins is hindered, the risk for vitamin
deficiency arises. Olestra products are usually fortified with supplemental vitamins in order to
make up for these losses.
All in all, the concept of Olestra is quite attractive. To my knowledge, however, Olestra isn't sold as a cooking oil at this time, being only used in the manufacturing process of certain products.
Examples of products made with Olestra (Olean) are Light Pringles and Light Frito Lays. Both products are fat-free. And on the whole, I find them to be less addictive than regular products. (In fact, Light Pringles has proven quite helpful for my personal weight loss program.) One serving (15 pringles) brings in 70 calories and is fairly satisfying as far as curbing hunger. I also found that eating one serving per day promoted regularity, without causing diarrhea or fatty stool.
- Pretzels generally bring about 120 calories per serving (about 16 pieces). Most brands have 0 saturated fat content, which constitutes an advantage over chips (especially potato chips). Therefore, if you must
have one of these products, pretzels are preferable over chips.
- Tortilla Corn Chips (Fritos, Nachos, etc) are quite caloric: They bring in between 130-150
calories per serving, but please note that the recommended serving size is only 8-12 chips. Now,
how easy do you think it is to overshoot that? To make things worse, tortilla chips usually require a dip,
and that dip is likely to bring in another 40-50 calories (per 2 tablespoons). This being said,
things are likely to add up pretty quickly.
- Potato Chips (Pringles, Ruffles, Lays, etc) are as caloric as corn chips, about 160 calories per 12-15 chips, and may contain more saturated fat (up to 3 grams per serving, for certain products).
Reduced-fat versions are available, but still bring in a sizable amount of calories.
- Cheese Puffs are also caloric - about 160 calories per serving, with 1.5 grams saturated fat.
If you still decide to shop in this aisle, look for products with the lowest calorie content for the largest serving size. In other words, see how many pretzels or chips are in one serving. This number varies from product to product, and is usually mentioned on the nutrition label. It gives
you a better idea how caloric the product really is: A low number (e.g., 8-12 chips per serving), is
an indication that the product is more caloric.
Note: All calorie counts are approximate.
Return from "Pretzels and Chips" to "Grocery Food Facts"