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This article appeared in the Irish Examiner’s Feelgood magazine last Friday 18 July. See if you agree with my and my tasting team’s findings.
It’s very easy to eat too many crisps, and with many packs weighing in at least 100g, it’s even easier to eat a lot of them and yet still not feel satisfied until and after they are finished. Even after those with the highest protein content, we get hungry soon after. This is how we get fat! There are some great new flavours in the shops to tempt us and this is what we sought for this survey. There are also a few small producers who make them on the spot at farmers’ markets, salting them deliciously. Others make and sell in local shops. As their supply is not constant, I didn’t include them today, but they really are delicious and if you buy some, I suggest you share them quickly, otherwise a hand will boomerang into the bag. I also suggest putting a portion of any crisps into a bowl so you see what you are eating to avoid over-consumption, avoiding eating them in front of the television to stay aware of the amount you eat. Confine them to treats, and use on the side with summer salads. Additives in crisps today include lactose from milk, so watch for allergic reactions in those with sensitivities. Some also have soya, wheat and sugar, which might not be expected. They are usually clearly listed.
Marks & Spencer Summer of Flavour soy & balsamic sweet potato crisps, 100g €3.09
A good, crisp texture, is not always easy with sweet potatoes. Sunflower and rapeseed oils are used to fry them and the appetizing sweet flavour comes from dried balsamic vinegar. Also included are dried barley malt vinegar, dried onions, yeast extract and garlic. Saturated fats are at 3.5%, with calories high at 515 per 100g pack. Fibre at 10.3% is good, protein is 5.3%, and salt at 0.75% is relatively low. All tasters liked these.
Walkers Sunbites, 150g €2.69
A six pack of multi-grain crisp snacks, rectangular and ridged, are made from 67% whole corn, whole wheat, whole oat flour gives them a ‘healthy’ feel. Saturated fats are the best of the selection at a low 2.2%, but sugars come to 9.6%. Protein at 7.5% is very good and salt is low at .66%. The flavour of chilli is gentle, the texture is of a re-formed mix. The 25g pack is light, but still has 125 calories which, despite the high protein, means the snacks are not very satisfying, but the rest of the statistics makes this the lightest and best option for health.
O’Donnells Tipperary jalapeno & sour cream,125g €2.29
The two peppery and creamy tastes cancel each other out, so the jalapeno doesn’t show enough. They feel quite greasy, though they are cooked in sunflower oil which should be light. The texture of the potato is nicely crisp. Ingredients include rice flour, sugar, chilli powder, onion powder, sour cream powder and dried red peppers. Protein is 5.7%, saturated fats 4.1% and 536 calories per 100g are high. Fibre is 4.1% and at 1.5% salt is quite high. Nice crisps, but flavour disappointing. Good they are made in Ireland.
Kettle Chips sea salt & balsamic vinegar chips, 150g €2.49
A commendably relatively short list of ingredients here tasted of regular salt and vinegar, with no sweetness of balsamic. At 1.9% salt, they were very salty. Saturated fats 3.3%, protein 5.4%, calories 502 calories per 100g
Keogh’s Shamrock and Sour Cream crisps 125g €2.00
It’s good to see an Irish company come up with an Irish gimmick, and there’s not much more gimmicky than our trefoil clover. It comes from shamrock extract and there are parsley flecks on the crisps too, stuck on with lactose, sugar, whey, onion, garlic and cheddar cheese, lactic acid, malic acid and yeast extract. Fried in vegetable oil, they have a high 522 calories per 100g, 3.8% saturated fats, and a high 1.63% salt, with decent protein of 7.4%. As we don’t know what shamrock should taste of it’s hard to judge, but the overall taste was of cheese and onion, with a decent crunchy texture. As most crisps have flavours added in extract form, shamrock is no worry. Tasters like them.
Lidl Crusti Croc mustard crisps, 200g €1.49
With a high 2.5% salt and a strong vinegar flavour no-one could tell that the there was mustard here. 546 calories per 100g is high with a low 2.7% saturated fats from being fried in high oleic sunflower oil. This oil is being used by producers to substitute for less desirable trans fat hydrogenated oils. People power has won out here. 6% protein, 4% fibre is fair. Sodium acetate caught my eye and may explain the high salt and vinegar flavouring which is its purpose.
Aldi Snackrite Thai sweet chilli potato crisps 150g €1.25
Like many of our samples, lactose from milk is listed here, this time in the chilli flavouring which is quite mild. There is also high oleic sunflower oil, so saturated fats at 1.8% are commendably low. Despite quite an interesting list of onion, tomato, chilli and garlic powders, the flavour was lacking in chilli flavour. However, sweet Thai chilli tends to be milder than others and there was some sweetness, added to perhaps by the ground fennel. 6.9% protein and 502 calories per 100g, with salt a relative low at 1.07% makes this a pleasant pack of crisps at a low price.
Tesco Finest handcooked sweet chilli crisps, 150g €2.29
Satisfyingly large crisps are gently flavoured with chilli with no harsh edges, as expected with a sweet chilli, nicely salted and not overdone at 1%, sunflower oil yields a high enough 4.1% saturated fats. The high sugar content of 3.2% comes in part from added sugar. Fibre at 2.5% is low, protein lowish at 5.1% and calories are 520 per 100g.