Every afternoon my hands reach for the doors to the chip cabinet and I find myself eating some store-bought bagged, terrible-for-your potato chips. I don't want to do this. I don't even buy them. My husband does, but I manage to make a big dent in a bag of processed chips most days and want to break this habit. So the search began for the best potato chip substitutes to eat instead, that are healthier, lower in calories, fat, and unhealthy additives. Here are the superfoods we found that will satisfy any salty, crunchy craving, that you can eat anytime and reap the health benefits.

Potato chips are high in calories, clocking in with between 130 and 220 calories per serving. And one serving is paltry, equal to either 1 ounce or 1.5 ounces (a small bag), barely enough to satisfy a snack attack. (Even Pretzel Crisps are not much better, with 110 calories in about 1 ounce, or 10 crackers.)

Why processed chips are bad for you

So chips have about 130 calories per ounce, but the calories in potato chips are not even the most damaging part of the equation when choosing a salty snack, according to experts, who weigh in on the fact that the processed oils and refined carbs are doing your body way more harm than just a few hundred calories can do. It's the highly refined, processed vegetable oil, full of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs, that lock in the extra fuel you aren't using while sitting at your desk as fat cells.

Packaged chips are made with processed vegetable oil 

Vegetable oils, such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, canola oil, and any type of processed seed oil, are intensely heated (which kills all nutrients) and then treated with chemicals to extract the oil more cheaply from the plant, says Dr. Catherine Shanahan, MD, a metabolic expert at Stanford University. She warns that the way most of the vegetable oils we eat in processed food today are processed with additives and chemical agents makes it harder to burn those fat calories once they get locked up into our fat cells.

Refined carbs spike blood sugar and insulin

The refined carbs in chips (such as potatoes are equally unhelpful to anyone trying to maintain a healthy weight, explains diet doctor and bestselling author and Dr. Jason Fung, MD, a kidney specialist who wrote The Obesity Code among other well-researched books on how the body metabolizes food. When you eat refined carbs, Dr. Fung explains, your body experiences a quick spike in blood sugar, which triggers an insulin surge, and that instructs the body to store the calories you aren't using (like most of them in my case, sitting at my table writing this story and reaching for my next chip) as fat.

Whole food homemade snacks are healthier

This led me on a quest to find the best superfood replacements for chips. I am blessed not only with a sweet tooth but a salt habit as well. Here are the salty snacks that will help quell any craving for a handful of Cape Cod Salt & Vinegar chips. Before you reach for that bag, here's what to eat instead.

If the snack urge is driven by a sweet craving, try a piece of fruit such as a pear, an apple, or nectarine or plum. If it's a salty craving, whole foods like whole olives or pickles, chickpeas, and other baked vegetables are a perfect homemade snack, since though they can be high in sodium, they also deliver fiber, which helps your body to absorb nutrients more slowly than refined processed carbs. Fiber keeps your blood sugar low, so insulin does not surge, and your snack fuels you for hours rather than minutes.

7 Superfood Snacks to Break a Potato Chip Habit

1. Pan-roasted chickpeas

It's so easy to make roasted chickpeas to eat as you work. Simply rinse and dry your chickpeas on a paper towel to get the moisture off them, then spread evenly on a sheet pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add salt and bake them on 425 for 25 minutes (longer if they don't look crisp) for an easy at-home munching snack that can satisfy your need for crunch, salt, and flavor.

Why chickpeas are a superfood

Chickpeas are high in fiber and protein and are chock full of minerals, vitamins, and some hard-to-get B vitamins like folate. One cup of chickpeas has 14 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fiber, so this is a perfect snack to have on hand every day.

2. Snacking Olives

When you reach for olives, especially whole kalamata black or green ones, you essentially are choosing a whole food snack. That's always a good idea since most whole foods come with minimal processing and are close to how they grow in nature.

For one option, try the pre-pitted and bagged snacking olives from FreeStyle Snacks. These olive snacks are easy to keep at your desk, and come in three flavors: Kalamata black olives packed with salt, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, green olives in a lemon garlic flavor, and spicy green olives flavored with a mix of chili and red pepper flakes, for anyone who likes a kick of heat with their salty snack.

Why olives are a superfood

Olives are rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants as well as iron, copper, and calcium. Olive oil is heart-healthy, linked to lowering LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) while helping to maintain HDL (or what's known as “good” cholesterol).

These premium olives, imported from Greece, are addictive but the serving size is four olives (45 calories) so calculate what you are eating based on your ability to stop at just four.

3. Seaweed Snacks

Pressed, dried, and crispy seaweed in the form of green salted sheets hit the scene a few years ago and now it's not usual to find women post-workout or mid-morning at their desks delicately picking up the thin sheets of green pressed seaweed and placing them on their tongue to melt into a rich, salty, snack that is both crisp and subtle. The popular brand GimMe has just 25 calories per half package, and the salty snack provides fiber, protein and zero fat, and 1 gram of carbs. The company makes six flavors to satisfy any taste preference.

Why seaweed is a superfood

Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, seaweed is one of the best sources of this nutritional powerhouse. Seaweed is known to contain both iodine, which helps regulate healthy thyroid function, and Tyrosine, an amino acid that is a building block of protein that helps the body make several important neurotransmitters. Tyrosine is known to help memory, mental performance, and alertness.

4. Popcorn

Is there anything more satisfying than tossing fluffy white popcorn back, over and over, until the bowl is gone? When you make your own popcorn in an air popper, you don't have to worry about how much you eat, since it's high in fiber, low in calories, and nearly free of fat so long as you don't add oil to the cooking process.

Why popcorn is a superfood:

Popcorn looks so innocent, but it's actually a superhero of snack foods. Popcorn contains phenolic acids, an antioxidant, as well as fiber. It's considered a whole grain, which has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Popcorn is also full of folate, as well as vitamins A, E, and K, and Niacin, Riboflavin, and thiamin, all essential nutrients. Three cups of air-popped popcorn contain 93 calories, 3 grams of protein, and almost 4 grams of fiber. Choose an air popper for the best results.

One caveat: Stay away from bags of popcorn even if the bag proclaims to be smart or skinny or clean. It’s much healthier to make your own popcorn as you control the amount of oil and salt. If you want to get fancy you can always add more than just salt, like nutritional yeast, garlic salt, cinnamon, or even a drizzle of melted dark chocolate.

5. Dill pickles

Attention all salt-aholics: Nothing beats biting into a crisp, homemade dill pickle, fresh from the fridge. You can make them yourself, but why bother when there are such excellent choices on the market. One we have discovered is Kaylin + Kaylin, founded by Scott Kaylin, a New Yorker who moved to LA and missed New York Style pickles. He started making his own, brought them to the farmer's market, and now the company ships over a dozen flavors and styles nationwide. All their pickles are vegan – even the "honey mustard" since no honey goes into the recipe.

Why pickles are a superfood

Fermented pickles, such as dill, are made in vinegar brine, which helps gut health by delivering probiotics to your gut microbiome, made up of billions of bacteria that help your body digest food. Boosting the growth of "good bacteria" with fermented foods support a healthy digestive system and strengthens the immune system.

A word about sodium: The daily nutritional value or recommendation from the CDC is that we don't have more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and on average a small dill pickle spear contains about 283 mg, or about 12 percent of your daily allowance. But if you wake up and go to a spin class or run intervals or sweat it out at Barry's Bootcamp, your body needs to replace sodium, so don't worry, so long as your blood pressure is normal.

6. Hummus with Vegetables

For the same reason that chickpeas are a great snack, so is hummus. As long as not too much oil is used in the recipe, hummus is among the cleanest snacks you can find. The best bet is to make your own and use a fraction of the oil you may encounter in hummus that is sold in plastic containers in the refrigerator section of your store.

Make this Homemade Easy Hummus Recipe and use less oil if you prefer. It has 3 grams of protein, 123 calories but 2 grams of fiber and

For a store-bought choice, Sabra Organic Hummus is a healthy choice, with 70 calories per serving, only 5 grams of fat and 1 gram of saturated fat, but 2 grams of protein.

Why hummus is a superfood

Chickpeas are the main ingredient of hummus, and the fiber and protein combo will help keep you full. Meanwhile, keeping baby carrots or chopped celery stocked in your fridge is a great idea, since they are a ready healthy choice for when the snacking urge strikes you are ready to dip and enjoy.

Carrots are high in vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin K, good for eyesight, bone health and have been shown to lower diabetes risk.

Celery is loaded with vitamin C, beta carotene, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients. It has been shown to help digestive health, lower inflammation, and is high in fiber (with 5 grams per stalk), making it a  perfect crunchy snack. Dip it into dairy-free ranch dressing or just seasoning salt, as an easy stand-alone salty snack option.

7. Kale Chips

Whether you choose to make homemade kale chips with avocado oil and sea salt, or homemade potato chips with olive oil and salt, using the minimum amount of heart-healthy oil and baking them instead of frying them is key to making healthier chips.

Making your own chips allows you to control the amount of oil and salt added, so this homemade potato chip recipe is a healthier alternative to store-bought chips. But wait, isn't the point to stay away from packaged potato chips? The keyword is "packaged" since processed chips contain highly processed vegetable oil that isn't as good for you as they sound (since the word vegetable is one we've grown to trust). Simply by replacing processed vegetable oil with olive oil, you’ll be one step closer to creating healthy snacking habits.

Why kale is a superfood

Kale chips are healthier for you than other types since kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. You can feel good about its fiber content as well as the fact that it contains vitamins A, K, C, B6, and minerals like manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Simply put the more kale we eat the better, even if it is smothered in oil and salt!

Bottom Line: Swap store-bought chips for these 7 superfood snacks.

The worst part about packaged potato chips isn't the calories, it's the processed oils and highly refined carbs. Instead, choose natural whole food snacks that are full of fiber and made from scratch, so the ingredients are better for you. All you have to sacrifice is the harmful ingredients while keeping all the taste and salty, crunchy satisfaction.

For a full list of superfoods, check out The 12 Best Superfoods to Eat Daily

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