Popcorn vs. Potato Chips

 Both potato chips and popcorn are easy to grab for a quick snack. Popcorn is often considered the healthier option, but which of these snacks is actually better for you?

Potato chips come in a variety of flavors, designed to please everyone. One serving of original flavor potato chips has 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, and 15 grams of carbs. The catch is the size of each serving is only one ounce, or roughly two handfuls of chips. It is often hard to stick to this suggested serving size, and increased consumption means drastically increasing the calories, fat, sodium, and carbohydrate content of your snack. Additionally, potato chips are highly processed, have many additives and artificial flavors, and contain unhealthy fats. In one serving of chips, there are 1.5 grams of saturated fats, which has been shown to increase bad cholesterol and should be limited, according to the American Heart Association.

Popcorn, on the other hand, is a whole, unprocessed grain that is high in fiber and antioxidants. A one ounce serving of popcorn is about three and a half cups, and a study published in Nutrition Journal found that popcorn kept participants feeling fuller for longer and prevented further snacking or overindulging at the next meal (Nguyen, et al, 2012). One serving of air-popped popcorn contains 105 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbs, and 3.5 grams of fiber. Popcorn also contains no cholesterol and provides a variety of essentials vitamins.

Air poppers can be purchased at most major retailers, but popcorn made on the stovetop with extra-virgin olive oil, used in moderation, still provides a better alternative to potato chips. According to the American Heart Association, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, a “good” fat that can have positive effects on your health when consumed conservatively, and low in “bad” saturated fats that are prevalent in potato chips.

Popcorn can also be made at home using a brown paper bag in the microwave. Simply measure ¼ cup popcorn kernels into a lunchbox-sized paper bag, loosely fold the top over, and microwave until there are three seconds between popping sounds (about two minutes total). If desired, you can flavor your popcorn by adding 1 tsp of oil, 1/8 tsp of salt, and your desired seasonings.

Popping your popcorn yourself allows you to add a variety of flavors and seasoning, from simple table salt to more exciting flavors like Chili-Lime, BBQ, and Dilly Lemon.

The Verdict: popcorn’s pros far outweigh the negative impact of potato chips on your health. Popcorn is a whole grain snack that provides micronutrients while cutting down on the calories, fat, and sodium of potato chips. Popping your popcorn yourself maintains the nutritional benefits while providing for a variety of flavors to rival every kind of potato chip.

Note: Be wary of pre-popped popcorn and microwave popcorn, because these varieties often contain large amounts of added sodium and other chemicals. The more prepared the popcorn is when you buy it, the farther it is from how it is grown in nature, and that usually means it is less healthy. If you are unable to pop your popcorn yourself, look for pre-packaged varieties with minimal ingredients and similar nutritional values to unpopped popcorn.