Always Well Within

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Three Essential Messages from the Simple and the Complex Potato Chip

Essential Messages from Potato Chips

I confess to being addicted to potato chips.  It started at an early age.  The Lays brand popular slogan “betcha can’t eat just one” was inspired by me.

But of course, I would never be so politically incorrect to eat Lays Potato Chips nowadays.  I only go for the brands that make a “natural promise”.  Amazingly, they line almost an entire aisle at my health food store.

Lately though, I’ve been receiving messages from these potato chips.  I would like to pass them along (the messages, not the potato chips!) for your own well being and in consideration of the environment.  Yes, the chips are talking about the environment too.

The Simple Potato Chip

What can we learn from the simple, unadorned potato chip?  Unsalted with only natural vegetable oil and no trans-fats?  I’ll use Kettle Brand Potato Chips with their “bold flavor and hearty crunch” to illustrate the lesson.

The problem stems all around the idea of serving size.  I always assume the serving size is whatever size the bag is – 2.5 ounces or 5 oz.  In other words, eat as many as you like.

But lo and behold – if you read the ingredient label – the actual serving size is 1 oz. or 13 chips.  That’s 150 calories, about right for an actual snack.

The “snack size” 2.5 oz bag therefore contains 2 and 1/2 servings.  The 5 oz. bag contains 5 servings.

Fess up:  do you ever eat the whole “snack size” bag?  What about your kids?  Now we’re up to 375 calories, edging closer to the size of a full meal.

Is it any wonder that 1/3rd of U. S. adults are obese and 17% of children and adolescents are obese?

The message from the simple potato chip?  “I’ll happily make you fat.”

The Complicated Potato Chip

Now we’re talking!  The Kettle Brand “Fully Loaded Baked Potato” (and that’s a trademark).  They contain:

  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Whey
  • Salt
  • Buttermilk powder
  • Cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sugar
  • Onion powder
  • Yeast extract
  • Natural flavors
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried sour cream (cultured cream, nonfat milk)
  • Dried green onion
  • Cultured buttermilk
  • Lactic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Paprika oleoresin (color)
  • Natural smoke flavor

That’s 19 ingredients, not including the sub-ingredients in milk and sour cream.  Whoa.

And what about the sugar?  Did you know there’s sugar in potato chips?  Even the “healthy” ones.

Think about it.  Did our ancestors ever eat such a huge collection of ingredients in a single meal?  Is the human digestive system well suited to such an assortment of input on a constant basis?

You don’t need a doctor or research scientist to tell you there’s an increase in gastrointestinal disease in developed countries.  Just take a look at the check-out counter at a popular drugstore where you will find mini-packs of Zantac and Pepto-Bismol and an assortment of allergy medicine because…

There’s a radical increase in allergies, food sensitivity, and food intolerance too!

Any one of those 19 ingredients could trigger digestive distress or symptoms of food sensitivity or intolerance.  The most obvious culprits are milk and its products.  But maltodextrin, yeast extract, citric acid, and “natural” flavors can all be triggers in susceptible people.  And potatoes themselves are high in oxalates.  Hidden food sensitivities can go on for years and years causing uncomfortable symptoms almost anywhere in your body.   Your doctor won’t necessarily have an answer so you just suffer.

So a complex food is not necessarily the type of food you want to eat if you tend to digestive distress or experience mysterious allergy-like symptoms, but don’t have any regular IgE allergies.   At least in my opinion.

So these guys will happily make you sick and fat!

Potato Chips and the Environment

Your health and the health of your children is of utmost importance.  But there’s also a global and environmental link to this picture.  I seriously doubt that potato manufacturers are growing all the ingredients for their products in their backyard.  That means they have to source all 19 ingredients – or whatever number depending on whether it’s spicy thai, honey dijon, vinegar and sea salt, jalapeno…you get the idea.

All those ingredients travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to the production facility.  Then, once they are melded together in the product, the “food” travels from the manufacturer to the store.  According to Wikipedia, “On average, food travels between 1,500 to 2,500 miles (4,000 km) every time that it is delivered to the consumer.”  That adds up to a lot of oil, which I spoke about in my article on 11 Ways to Reduce Your Oil Consumption:

“Since 71%  of oil goes to transportation—transporting ourselves and the goods and foods we purchase, there’s no question that a radical reduction in driving and travel are required to effectively reduce oil dependence.  The greatest gains will come from reducing our own driving and flying as well as the transportation of the goods that we purchase.”

The message from the complicated potato chip:  I’ll happily make you fat, ruin your health and play havoc with the environment too.

Now, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, but I do feel these potato chips give us food for thought.  What right do I have to expect to eat any food of my choice regardless of the immense amount of effort and energy  it takes to create it and then get it to me?

Yes, it takes a lot of willpower to resist all the attractively packaged taste sensations we have come to know and love.  But doesn’t it seem that our lives have become too complex?   Just looking at what it takes to make a bag of potato chips makes you wonder if all this is sustainable?   Isn’t it kind of strange that so much effort goes into producing these special foods for a small part of the population, while at the same time there are people dying of starvation every single day?

I’ll be honest in saying that I haven’t given up packaged foods entirely.  But I have reduced the amount that I purchase.

What do you think?  Have you considered reducing the number of packaged foods in your shopping cart?

If you liked this article, please share the link with others.  Thank you! You can also connect with me on Google+ or the Always Well Within Facebook Page.  With love, Sandra

Image:  Public Domain


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  1. Now I know great minds think alike, dear Sandra, because I downed the better part of a bag of Cape Cod Yukon Gold Kettle Chips (maybe @ 6 oz of it) after my weekly grocery shopping trip. I have always been addicted to them, and must restrict myself to having them no more than once a month. I’m also a sucker for pretzels, but anything wheat these days seems to mess me up badly. So I stick to potato and corn chips for snacks. Fortunately the corn chips are made locally, come in a waxed paper bag, and a “regular” serving seems to be about right, so I have no problem with having them around the house. Years ago I’d buy corn tortillas and fry my own chips.

    I’d feel a lot better about packaging if it went back to paper, glass, and metal, all recyclable. My favorite peanut butter still comes in glass jars, but some other fairly simple foods, such as mayonnaise and olive oil have gone over to plastic bottles and jars.

    We keep “prepared” foods to a minimum. Some basic things are canned, such as tomatoes and beans, and we also purchase a good soup base, an assortment of simple condiments, and some frozen veggies, but not the kind in sauces. When I was a lot younger I bought almost everything from bulk bins and stored them in my own glass jars, etc., and did my own canning and such, but that was when I had the energy to do all of that plus raise a small child and hold down a teaching job. Not going to happen how! We eat simply and inexpensively, and when I purchase a short cut, I try to get the least noxious product I can.

    • Hi Meg,

      Oh, I have met my match! How do you feel about popcorn? That used to be another big one for me. I think fat and salt were my comfort foods as a child.

      That’s so true, many of the basics are in plastic now. You have a very reasonable approach. As always, you represent the ground, middle path! I appreciate that about you.

  2. Jean Sampson

    What a timely post! I have given up packaged food for several months and find that I have lost my cravings for sugar and other things (I am also a chip addict! They are designed to create addicts!). On the rare occasion when I have to eat packaged food, such as eating at someone’s house or when someone celebrates my birthday, I can go right back to my way of eating without any cravings the very next day. I am really surprised at how much those foods set us up for cravings and addictions, and have made the decision to eat just like I am eating and enjoying the feeling of true hunger and satiety. The wonderful thing is that it is not at all hard! I am very grateful and amazed.

    • Jean,

      This is really amazing. You’ve gone to the core and really discovered the secret “solution.” Going beyond the cravings is an awesome accomplishment. I’m glad that you are finding it’s not hard at all. Thanks for sharing the inspiration. I’m very happy for you.

  3. Somehow, I never pictured you eating junk food! I have also never met a fried potato I didn’t like, but I try to make sure potato chips and french fries are an occasional indulgence rather than a regular occurrence. I don’t think most people stop at the 1oz serving size — they just assume that a small bag is the serving size. Food companies deliberately mislead by listing calories for a much smaller serving size than is realistic. For example, the serving size of a personal sized bottle of soda is 1/2 the bottle, but who actually just drinks half? In the UK, nutritional information is provided both in the suggested serving size and per 100g, which is a much more useful way of comparing foods.

    I haven’t completely given up packaged foods, either. It’s a lot of work to make everything from scratch all the time. I do bake my own bread and pizza, make my own vegetable stock and sauces, whip up my own almond milk, and cook from scratch most of the time. However, there are veggie potstickers and frozen berries in the freezer, canned beans and dried pasta in the pantry, and other shortcuts when I’m too tired or lazy to cook from absolute zero.

    • Jennifer,

      Sorry to tarnish my image! Now that my health has improved, I can manage a few indulgences now and then. I think fat and salt were my comfort foods as a child, this “interest” goes way back!

      That’s a really great example of the soda bottle. I didn’t know that! Soda is one thing I don’t drink, so I’m not a total junk food junkie. 🙂

      Wow, you really do a lot from scratch. That’s an impressive list. Life would be quite challenging without any basic packaged supplies given the complex lives we lead. You do amazingly well.

  4. Oh it makes me so happy to learn that you are human too! And the fact that you have to fight your cravings for what you know is not good for you gives me hope that someday I too shall be able to overcome my food addictions and cravings. Right now I crave sugar in whatever form it presents itself to me. My father passed away last week and I find that I am literally feeding my grief. This is a totally new experience for me. After years and years I now understand what the phrase ‘comfort eating’ means!

    • Edith,

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Please take care and nourish yourself during this sad time.

      Of course I’m human! Totally. I’m just as wacky as the next person. I’m just fortunate to have a little tiny bit of perspective on it given all the spiritual teachings I’ve received.

  5. Wow, how could I not read a post that featured such a delicious looking photo of these evil beasties? Not a single blemished chip among them. sigh

    Knowledge is power — hopefully this post will turn into WILLpower for all of us.

    • Susan, We’ll see! As it turns out, research shows we spend 1/4th of our days resisting urges and many of them have to do with food. But there is hope. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed feasting your eyes on the photo.

  6. Thanks for this potato chip review Sandra! Time to ditch the chips and go back to the old fashioned french fries:)

  7. We’re starting to eat more and more locally-grown produce, Sandra. It feels so good! I do love a good small bag of chips, though. Natural or otherwise. Salt plus crunch is the best combo for me.
    Great post, thanks for writing it.

    • Laura,

      It’s so nice to see you here! Thank you for gracing my blog. I’m glad you are enjoying eating more locally-grown produce. And, at the same time, aren’t depriving yourself entirely of the salt plus crunch fix. You seem to be able to thoroughly enjoy without going overboard. Bravo!

  8. Sandra,
    Potato chips…I had about 20 yesterday. I love sea salt and vinegar. I don’t eat them often…6 times a year.

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