Going Off on Popchips!

I have been seeing Popchips everywhere lately and it’s making me crazy.  They are calling themselves “Healthy”, “Natural”, and “Nothing fake or phony”.  Feeling that this is just marketing speak, with no real substance behind it, I want to go through the ingredient list one by one.  Then you can tell me if I am off base, and this is “healthy food” or if it is indeed marketing speak and you should run for your life from this junk food.


So let’s go one by one to see how “unfake” this product really is.

Potato Flakes.  Really? Potatoes come out of the ground as flakes?  Here is how potato flakes are made.  You might note that the first step is that they are bathed in Lye – the same chemical used in draino that will kill you if you drink it.  Here is a condensed version of how potato flakes are made.  Note the additives in #7.

Production of Potato Flakes

“Potato flakes” is a term used to identify mashed potatoes that have been dehydrated on a drum dryer. Desirable characteristics of factors which influence the quality of potato flakes include: (1) high starch content, (2) strong cell walls to avoid release of starch from the cell, (3) processing techniques which minimize cell rupture, (4) addition of antioxidants and other color stabilizers, and (5) low oxygen and water permeability packaging. The basic processing steps are: (1) wash, (2) steam or lye peel, (3) trim, (4) slice to slabs, (5) precook (e.g. 20 min at 160°F ), (6) steam cook until soft enough to rice, (7) add antioxidants and other stabilizers, (8) drum drying, (9) breaking and screening, and (10) packaging.

Factors affecting efficient operation of the drying process are: (1) drum clearance (avoid cell rupture), (2) drum speed, (3) solids content of potatoes (20-22%), (4) sheet density, (5) steam pressure, and (6) final product moisture.

Potato Starch: A neutral  ingredient at best, extra calories at worst.  Potato starch is starch extracted from potatoes. The cells of the root tubers of the potato plant contain starch grains (leucoplasts). To extract the starch, the potatoes are crushed; the starch grains are released from the destroyed cells. The starch is then washed out and dried to powder.

Potato starch contains typical large oval spherical granules; their size ranges between 5 and 100 μm. Potato starch is a very refined starch, containing minimal protein or fat. This gives the powder a clear white colour, and the cooked starch typical characteristics of neutral taste, good clarity, high binding strength, long texture and a minimal tendency to foaming or yellowing of the solution.

Potato starch contains approximately 800 ppm phosphate bound to the starch; this increases the viscosity and gives the solution a slightly anionic character, a low gelatinisation temperature (approximately 140 °F (60 °C)[1]) and high swelling power.

These typical properties are used in food and technical applications.[2]

Sunflower, safflower, and/or canola oil:  Oil is not necessarily bad, but it always add calories without many nutrients to accompany all of those calories.  Learn about oils here on the Whole Foods website.  I find this a very helpful rundown.
Rice flour: Milled rice.  Learn more here. original_single_nutritionV2
Salt:  You don’t need an education on salt.

Here is the nutrition label on the Popchips bag.

Let’s now look at the ingredients of  a small McDonald’s French Fries.  I will admit that compared to the french fries popchips look better.

How about compared to tortilla chips?  I chose Tostitos because they are pretty generic as far as chips are concerned.  Humm……sure looks a LOT like the popchips ingredient list to me except that you can substitute the potato for the corn.  And NO ONE considers a tortilla chip “health food”.



And one more comparison:  Potato Chips.  Tim’ s is a local manufacturer of potato chips.  Check out their list of ingredients.  Humm, are the bells going off yet? Tim’s has fewer, and actually more natural ingredients that Popchips.  They are still NOT a healthy food!

Tim's Potato Chips


The bottom line:  Popchips are just that, chips.  A bag of carbs and fat.  A bag of empty calories that will make you fat if you eat too many.  There are VERY FEW vitamins, micro nutrients, fiber or anything else that makes food healthy.   How is that health food?  ITS NOT!!!!!

Ok, that’s my rant for the day.  Now let me know what you think.

5 thoughts on “Going Off on Popchips!

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    1. Yes, which points out what is currently wrong with vending program. We are trying to work with State Services for the Blind to offer a much wider assortment of healthy options. The popchips do meet the Healthy Dept. guidelines for “healthier” but not “healthiest”. The only “healthiest” options we are able to offer with our current program are salt-free nuts. We are trying to get better, but the system makes it difficult for us.

  1. I think this is a little overboard… They don’t say that they are “healthy,” but “healthier” than normal potato chips. If you are looking for a salty snack but don’t want all of the fat and calories they are a better option. Tortilla chips are good though.

    1. Thanks Charlie. I agree the post is a bit harsh, but I keep seeing these chips marketed as healthy (I saw a post on facebook yesterday from a gym) and I just don’t feel they are healthy. They are still chips, and yes, might fill the need for a salty snack, but they are no “healthier” than most other chips out there.

  2. There must have been something in the air yesterday. Here is an excerpt from Mark Bittman of the NYT: Almost every diet, from the radical no-carb-at-all notions to the tame (and sane) “Healthy Eating Plate” from Harvard, agrees on at least this notion: reduce, or even come close to eliminating, the amount of hyper-processed carbohydrates in your diet, because, quite simply, they’re bad for you. And if you look at statistics, at least a quarter of our calories come from added sugars (seven percent from beverages alone), white flour, white rice, white pasta … are you seeing a pattern here? (Oh, and white potatoes. And beer.)

    So what’s Ludwig’s overall advice? “It’s time to reacquaint ourselves with minimally processed carbs. If you take three servings of refined carbohydrates and substitute one of fruit, one of beans and one of nuts, you could eliminate 50 percent of diet-related disease in the United States. These relatively modest changes can provide great benefit.”

    The message is pretty simple: unprocessed foods give you a better chance of idealizing your weight — and your health. Because all calories are not created equal.

    Read the entire article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/which-diet-works/?ref=opinion

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