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:
- Vegetable oil
- Buttermilk powder
- Cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes)
- 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…
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?
Image: Public Domain