Not So Sensible Portions

veggie straws

There’s a new snack in town.

Have you seen them?  To me, it seems like Veggie Straws from Sensible Portions are every where.  For sure, the company is doing some clever promotions.  They recently conducted a contest with NYU Tisch Film students to create a viral commercial for Veggie Straws.   Here’s one of the student films…

A sensible solution to eating your vegetables? I don’t think so. Nice ad, but these veggie straws are a far cry from a real vegetable.

Sensible Portions has been reaching out to media in a big way.  I agreed to accept free products to review (more about that later), and I’ve seen lots of coverage raving about the snacks.  In fact, the sweet barbecue flavored Potato Straws were just honored as one of the best low-calorie snacks of 2011 by Shape magazine.

“Enjoy the smoky-sweet flavor of barbecue chips for 30% less fat.  One staffer said:  These are so good, I felt like I was being bad by eating them.”

Hence my problem with these  so-called “healthy” snacks.   For starters, why does this Shape staffer feel “bad” when eating real barbecue chips, and why does she feel like she’s getting a free pass by eating these “better-for-you” barbecue straws (or so it seems by her comment:  they taste so good that they have to be bad, but they’re not, so I can eat even more?)

These Sensible Portions chips are trying so hard to be good.  The package label includes a long list of boastful claims:  All natural ingredients, 30% less fat than the leading potato chip, 0g trans fat, no preservatives, cholesterol-free, non-GMO and kosher oil.  The Sensible Portions web site touts “next generation in healthy foods,” but I couldn’t find  nutrition and ingredient information any where on the site (which was a big red flag for me).  It was only until I received the product samples could I really tell what these snacks were all about.   And I got to taste them.

That’s where my disappointment comes in.  You would think these snacks were simply dehydrated vegetables the way  the package looks and how glowing the praise has been. Not so.  These fry-shaped chips really have very little to do with real vegetables.  The “Garden Veggie Straws” are a puffed up, extruded mixture of potato flour, sunflower oil and corn starch with some tomato puree, spinach powder, salt, sugar and turmeric.  Do they have the nutrients of  vegetables?  Hardly.  0% vitamin A, 0% calcium, 2% vitamin C, 2% iron, 1 g fiber. And I thought they tasted awful.

So why compare yourself to vegetables?  The clever commercials are misleading. Just be a chip.

And are they really such a better chip?  Heck, if I wanted a chip, I’d have a chip that tasted good. The label claims 30% less fat than the leading potato chip  (7 grams in Veggie Straws vs. 10 grams in leading potato chip).  But you could buy baked potato chips and only get 3 grams of fat!  The Sensible Portions sweet barbecue Potato Straws contain 130 calories and 7 grams of fat per 1-oz. bag, while the same amount of barbecue Baked Lay’s contains 120 calories and 3 grams of fat.  So this “30% less fat” really depends on what chip you typically buy.

To me, this is the “health halo” hard at work. Studies show that people end up eating even more of a low-fat snack because they think they’re being good. And they’re apt to enjoy it even less. When you’re eating a potato chip, you know what it is. And that tends to make people eat more in moderation. With all of these “healthy cues” on a product (even if undeserving), people tend to let their guard down. So people may end up eating twice as many of these Sensible Portion snacks because they’re so “healthy.”

How sensible is that?

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29 Comments

  • Brandon

    I like these posts. But I would disagree with “When you’re eating a potato chip, you know what it is. And that tends to make people eat more in moderation.” Chips are the kind of food that are hard to put down, and they aren’t filling, and they are easy to mindlessly eat, so I don’t think its easy to eat them in moderation. A lot of kids I work with tell me when they open up a bag of hot cheetos or taqi’s they eat the whole bag.

  • Janet Helm

    Brandon,
    I hear you about mindlessly eating…and it’s hard to stop once your hand is in a big bag of chips. But you don’t think that’s the same case with these so-called healthy chips? Studies repeatedly show that people will eat more if a snack has a low-fat label. They’ll end up eating twice the calories compared to a regular snack. The real point of my post is that these are not really healthy chips. They’re not at all close to a vegetable like they want you to think…and if you want a lower fat chip, buy baked potato chips. And you’re only really saving about 20 calories with this Veggie Straws. I just think you’re going to make up for it by eating more of these Thanks for your visit.

  • http://nutritiondesigns.blogspot.com/ Tiffany the Dietitian

    Totally agree! If you want a chip, eat a chip! Eat one serving and move on with your life. Same goes with other “bad” foods. I try to educate people that if you’re eating healthy and exercising regularly, enjoying an occasional treat can be apart of your diet. Still, it seems as though the concept of enjoying foods in moderation is a difficult one. And so our work as dietitians continue……:)

  • http://foodtrainers.blogspot.com Lauren Slayton

    Just be a chip, love it Janet. I refuse to eat anything that doesn’t taste great, I think that’s sensible. I think I know the Shape Mag list you were referring to and let’s just say I didn’t find many of those healthy snacks to be very healthy. Then again, I like real veggies (and real potato chips) and that probably wouldn’t sell.

  • http://www.teadome.com David

    “Do they have the nutrients of vegetables? Hardly.”

    I agree with you. No processed food can equal the nutrients found in fresh or slightly cooked vegetables, though they claim of having veggies natural ingredients.

    Whatever they say, these are junk foods and junk foods offer less health benefits.

    David

  • http://chewwithyourmouthopen.com Chelsey @ Chew with Your Mouth Open

    Fantastic post! These healthy imposer snacks are really starting to drive me nuts. The only way to get a serving of vegetables is to actually eat REAL vegetables. Of course there are always creative and innovative ways to add and incorporate them into foods, that does not involve completely rearranging them into an unrecognizable man-made substance, such as Veggie Straws.

  • Sharon B.

    I agree that they’re trying to make the product look “good.” I’m looking for a good recipe (will probably attempt my own*) using rice as a binder(?), and extruded blended veggies. I’ll use my dehydrator instead of baking.

    *Look out! Mad scientist at work!

  • Swami Nathan

    Good points.

    Bought this for my kid at Toys r us and shocked to find that these are mostly potato

  • Alee

    I liked what you had to say in your post, except for I want to defend this brand & their “Veggie Straws. I honestly love them! I checked out the nutrition facts & was well aware that they are not what I would consider healthy. I am not a chip person, I think they are actually gross and tend to have a hard time enjoying them. YET these straws are super yummy, plus I love their shape. For some reason the straw shape is much more enjoyable for me then the flat circular chip shape.

    In my own opinion these are awesome (although I would prefer they don’t advertise to be healthy…), so I would suggest them if someone were to ask me for something yummy.

  • Jason

    Thank you! I was doing the same – trying to find ingredients on their website, but since I couldn’t find any, that told me enough right there. So, to find out the real ingredients from you definitely validates my concern – they were hiding the crummy ingredients from us! Great how these processed food manufacturers can act like they’re all healthy when they’re not even close.

  • Sensible Portions Lover

    The reason I like these so much is because while they’re not much better than typical chips, the fact remains that you get many more pieces per serving due to their individual light weight. And they are delicious. Try weighing a portion of regular chips and a portion of any of these products (especially the straws) and see the difference as to how many pieces you get PER SERVING. Serving size goes by weight.

  • Ashley

    Ok your not really proving your point in some way I have bought these chips and i dont even eat as much as it says on the bag its just to much so no not everyone sees you can eat more and eats more. its called will power ppl dont be fatty’s and eat all the chips eat a little with lunch and you will be good its better then eating those other chips on the market

  • Still a Mom

    I remember a simple rule an older friend shared with me: Sugarless = artificial sweetener, Fat free = sugar, No artificial flavors added = salt, Sodium free = sugar and when it says all four, it is going to taste like cardboard! The danger is not in a snack, but when a snack replace real food. These are being added to lunches for children and called a vegetable. That is where the danger truly is!

  • Courtney

    I thought these were pretty good, but definitely have a weird taste. They came with a sandwich I got at a cafe. I’d rather have potato chips. These don’t have any extra health benefits – just marketing to those people who want to eat healthy, but are too stupid to do research. They see veggie straws and think they are something special. Try buying kale chips instead – yummy and at least a ton of vitamins!

  • Patrick Casey

    You’re crazy man! They are delicious! And 68 piecesz in a single serving! That’s incredible! I much prefer these to chips!

  • Mangomutt

    My mom bought us these chips because she said they were healthy and better for us. I’ll tell her they are just the same thing. But, I have to disagree with you in the taste, me & my sisters actually love eating these chips. There actually pretty tasty! I love eating them with hot sause or something because there pretty plain.

  • Tonia

    HOW CAN IT SAY ALL FOUR!!??!! DO THE MATH ON THAT ONE…UNLESS U BELIEVE THEY ARE OUT RITE LYING ABOUT WHAT IS IN THE PRODUCT??

  • Julius Haynes

    I have tried veggie straws albeit not the brand you’re discussing. I actually like them. I am not eating them to replace vegetables in my daily diet, that would be ludicrous but I do eat them to replace the completely unhealthy chips and snacks that line the grocery store shelves. No processed product is going to replace natural products, they can only serve as an alternative to poisons that we currently place in our bodies.

  • Dino

    The packaging is different now. So is the nutrition. I think they have new flavor of chips as well! Does anyone know where I can buy these in Oregon state? I looked at http://dealvortex.com/sensible-portions-garden-veggie-straw-chips-nutritional-guide/ .My local Costco no longer sells them! The prices to buy these online is too much for me as well. Overall they are pretty healthy chips to give my son to bring to school.

  • Paul

    yummy! we can eat this with moderation right? i dont think there’s no wrong with that as long you know your limits..Thanks for posting!

    zerona san antonio tx

  • Gleanna CreepyTurtle Tompkins

    My grandpa has this habit of shopping at BJ’s (bulk store like Costco or Sam’s Club) and he brought home this giant case of these things the other day. I’m sitting here trying these for the first time and I must say, the Zesty Ranch ones actually taste pretty good. I’m not really a big chip person but I could eat these on occasion. I was right, however, to be skeptical as to how “healthy” they are.

  • Cynthia Clark

    Hey clueless-they’re a snack, not to be confused with an actual vegetable. If you thought so then that’s on you. I did not get that from the commercial nor would I take any such claim to heart. Give people a little bit of credit here.

    • Janet

      I’m clueless? I don’t think so. I’m pointing out that these products should not be marketed as a substitute for vegetables. They’re trying to make you believe that you can count these toward your daily vegetable servings. That’s where I have a problem.

  • Drew Steele

    It’s a snack plain and simple. They taste good, are as healthy for you as Lays Baked Regular potato chip, and are a snack. Oh they are a snack and not a meal (although many would eat them as a meal). If you are on a diet don’t forget they are a snack.

  • Carly Jones

    Totally agree with this. These are nasty and have nothing to do with vegetables and health.

  • Chipster

    I tried the Straws this week, thought they tasted okay, not greasy like tater chips, but they are way too hard and crunchy – they scratched the inside of my mouth and made a sore spot. My dogs like them.

  • Vectoriousl

    I honestly don’t like them. I didn’t buy the veggie straws but I did buy the veggie crisp and they were disgusting. They were the sea salt flavor not a special flavor and they came in a cylinder container like Pringles. That’s where I first went wrong. I was really in the mood for veggie chips and so I said I’ll try them. Disgusting. Salty. And tasted, looked, and gross as Pringles. Never again. Sucks to find out the company that owns this brand also owns the terra brand. An actual good natural food brand.

  • Kat

    No processed snacks, such as chips, are allowed in our house, unless they are organic. This is the only processed snack that I let my son have a few times a week. He is happy that he can eat chips. And I am glad I can give him a break and it has no GMOs.

  • lor

    These arent a replacement for veggies , just a smarter choice than eating potato chips. Health benefits? Not really, other than the fact that one can get more satisfaction out of the serving size per calorie amount (good if you are watching calories and still feel the need for a potato snack).
    Are there better healthier snack options out there? Absolutely. But i enjoy these when craving potato chips and I actually like the taste better. It’s your duty as a consumer to care about what you put into your body. You do the research . If you are lazy enough to think that everything labeled as healthy is actually good for you ..then that is on you.

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