Can crisps be healthy?

Can crisps be healthy? Typically low in nutrients and often high in salt and fat, it’s hardly surprising manufacturers have started trying to tempt us with ‘healthy’ versions – but when it comes to the crunch, will they do you any good?

  • In the UK we make our way through six billion packets of crisps every year
  • Manufacturers started trying to tempt us with ‘healthy’ versions of the snack 
  • Among health snack are those made from salmon skins to popped lotus seeds

We munch our way through six billion packets of crisps every year in the UK. 

Typically low in nutrients and often high in salt and fat, it’s hardly surprising that manufacturers have started trying to tempt us with ‘healthy’ versions of our favourite savoury snack. 

From crisps made from salmon skins, to seaweed, popped lotus seeds and lentils — we asked dietitian Noor Al Refae, head of dietetics at Cheswold Park Hospital in Doncaster, to assess a selection.

We then rated them for health.


Nim’s Peppers and courgettes vegetable crisps, £1.15 for 16g,

£1.15 for 16g,

Per 100g: Calories, 294; saturated fat, 1g; sugar, 34g; salt, 0g

EXPERT VERDICT: These vegetable crisps are a 50:50 mix of air-dried red, green and yellow peppers and courgettes — and nothing else. There’s no flavourings, preservatives, salt or oil. 

Unlike potato crisps, each bag will count as one of your five-a-day, and contains just 47 calories, compared to 84 in the same portion of ready salted potato crisps. 

You’ll get almost a tenth of the daily fibre you need in a pack, and more than 100 per cent of your recommended daily vitamin C intake, which boosts the immune system. There is the equivalent of just over a teaspoonful of sugar in every bag, but this is natural rather than added, so isn’t as bad for your waistline.

Taste: Chewy rather than crisp, with a Mediterranean vegetable flavour.


Marty’s barbecue flavour popped chickpea crisps, 79p for 20g,

79p for 20g,

Per 100g: Calories, 429; saturated fat, 1.4g; sugar, 4.2g; salt, 1.1g

EXPERT VERDICT: These are made with chickpea and rice flours, tapioca starch and salt. As they are ‘popped’, rather than deep-fried, they contain around 60 per cent less fat and fewer calories than ready salted crisps. 

Chickpeas are a good source of iron, which we need for making red blood cells, and are also high in muscle-building protein and digestion-friendly fibre. 

You’ll get more than 4 per cent of your recommended daily fibre intake and 2.8g protein — about half an egg’s worth — in a bag, and there’s just under a quarter of a teaspoon of added sugar in the seasoning.

Taste: Powerful, sweet and smoky with a robust crunchy texture.


Nairn’s pop oats sour cream & chive 50p for 20g,

50p for 20g,

Per 100g: Calories, 416; saturated fat, 1.2g; sugar, 1.7g; salt, 1.12g

EXPERT VERDICT: These popped ‘crisps’ are made with 41 per cent wholegrain oats and are also gluten-free.

They are a source of fibre, but you’ll only get 1.1g in a bag — just over 3 per cent of the minimum daily requirement of this digestion-friendly nutrient.

Because they are popped, rather than fried, they have 60 per cent less fat than standard crisps.

It’s worth noting that there are four milk-based ingredients in this flavour, too, which means they are unsuitable for anyone with a dairy intolerance or allergy.

Taste: Good, strong chive flavour, with a slightly floury texture. 


Itsu crispy sea salt seaweed thins, £2 for 3 x 5g packs,

£2 for 3 x 5g packs,

Per 100g: Calories, 470; saturated fat, 4.8g; sugar, 0.5g; salt, 6g

EXPERT VERDICT: These are wafer-thin slices of seaweed cooked with olive oil and salt. There’s just 24 calories in each 5g pack. 

Seaweed is rich in zinc, a mineral which helps maintain a strong immune system; iodine, needed for regulating thyroid hormones; and calcium, which is important for bone health and cell signalling. 

Gram per gram, these thins are high in gut-friendly fibre and muscle-building protein, too. But the tiny serving size means you won’t get a substantial amount of either. These are four times as salty as crisps, with 5 per cent of your daily limit per pack.

Taste: Salty and very fishy — an acquired taste.


The sea chips lime and chilli salmon skin crisp, £19.99 for 12 x 20g bags,

£19.99 for 12 x 20g bags,

Per 100g: Calories, 505; saturated fat, 5g; sugar, <0.5g; salt, 4.5g

EXPERT VERDICT: Made from slivers of salmon skin fried in their own fat, these are exceptionally high in protein: you’ll get 12.6g — two eggs’ worth — in a bag. Protein is important for the repair of tissues in the body. 

Salmon skin is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart and brain health. Low in carbohydrates and sugar, these are better than potato crisps for people who need to watch their sugar intake. 

On the downside, they are high in salt, with three times as much as ready salted crisps. One bag contains 15 per cent of your daily salt limit. This can be bad for your blood pressure.

Taste: Salty and very fishy, with a crunchy texture similar to pork scratchings. 


Proper chips sweet sriracha chilli lentil chips, 85p for 20g,

85p for 20g,

Per 100g: Calories, 470; saturated fat, 2.9g; sugar, 3.4g; salt, 2.55g

EXPERT VERDICT: Vegan and gluten-free, these triangular chips are made with lentil flour, potato starch, cornflour, rice flour and sunflower oil. 

Lentils are a good source of fibre and protein, but there are only small amounts of both in a pack as these contain just 28 per cent lentil flour. 

There are 94 calories in a bag — just 11 fewer than the same portion of ready salted crisps — and nearly a quarter of a teaspoon of added sugar, which is bad for your teeth and waistline.

It is also quite high in salt, with around a twelfth of your daily limit in a small bag.

Taste: Strong, garlicky flavour with a hot chilli kick and puffy texture. 


Plant pops peanut butter lotus seeds, 81p for 20g,

81p for 20g,

Per 100g: Calories, 486; saturated fat, 3.3g; sugar, 9.1g; salt, 1.6g

EXPERT VERDICT: A mix of 65 per cent popped lotus seeds, ground peanuts, olive oil, sugar and salt. Lotus seeds are a source of magnesium — important for muscle function, bone strength and energy production — and potassium, needed for good fluid balance and heart health. 

Peanuts are rich in biotin, which is essential for healthy hair, eyes and skin, and the nervous system, as well as vitamin E, which supports the skin, eyes and immune system. But these are very high in salt: a bag contains 5 per cent of your daily limit. There’s also just under half a teaspoon of added sugar per serving.

Taste: Chewy texture with a subtle, charred peanut flavour. 


Metcalfe’s nacho cheese corn chips, 75p for 22g,

75p for 22g,

Per 100g: Calories, 425; saturated fat, 1.4g; sugar, 5.7g; salt, 0.73g

EXPERT VERDICT: A bag of these gluten-free, popped chips contains 94 calories — that’s around 22 fewer than in the same portion of ready salted crisps. These also have one of the lowest salt contents of all the crisps we looked at here — 0.16g in a bag, which is just under 3 per cent of your daily salt limit. 

However, they are not suitable for those with a dairy intolerance or allergy, and you’ll get almost half a teaspoon of sugar in a bag — around 5 per cent of your daily limit — which is both natural (from corn) and added.

TASTE: Strong cheesy flavour with plenty of cayenne, onion and garlic.


Real quinoa corn puffs white cheddar, 50p for 40g,

50p for 40g,

Per 100g: Calories, 567; saturated fat, 3.3g; sugar, 1.1g; salt, 1.6g

EXPERT VERDICT: The manufacturer calls these ‘a revolutionary snack made from quinoa grains’ — but these are actually 53 per cent maize, and just 6 per cent quinoa.

They are quite low in sugar, which is a positive, and maize provides B vitamins, which are important for a healthy nervous system.

However, gram per gram, these have the highest calorie count of all the snacks we looked at here. They also come in a 40g bag, with a larger-than-average recommended serving size of 28g (which will give you 158 calories — 53 more than a standard 20g bag of crisps). 

So you need to be strict about your portion size and not be tempted to keep eating until you finish the bag if you are watching your weight.

TASTE: They are moreish and have an authentic cheese flavour — even though they’re vegan.    


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