It's the universal dream to indulge in chips, crisps and cheesy curls of junk food yet somehow stay as trim and healthy as one would on a diet of veggies. But since that dream remains an impossible one, what is a health-minded snacker to do?
Trying to combine the health benefits people want with the familiar tastes they crave, Frito-Lay has launched a line of natural snacks, including such favorites as Tostitos, Cheetos and Ruffles. The products are made with natural ingredients, and three are certified organic. But are they really better for you? And more important, do they taste good?
The aisles of health-food stores are well stocked with healthy snack products, but they tend to taste distinctly, well, healthy. Not much of a treat there. And sometimes they aren't as healthy as they seem. Many dieters were enraged last year when it was discovered that Robert's American Gourmet had mislabeled its popular all-natural Pirate's Booty snack products, suggesting they were healthier and lower in calories than they actually were.
So how do Frito-Lay's new products stack up? The whole line is cooked in trans fat--free oils, a big health benefit over many other snack foods, because trans fats raise the level of LDL, the "bad cholesterol." And the products are slightly lower in ordinary fat. Regular Tostitos and Natural Tostitos both have 140 calories a serving, but the natural chips have only 50 calories from fat, while the traditional ones have 70. And our tasters found that the flavor of the new products matched or sometimes even surpassed that of the traditional products. The Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Puffs made with organic cornmeal were cheesier, with less grease and salt, than the regular cheese curls. And the Thick Cut Country BBQ potato chips had a more authentic barbecue taste. So while these new snacks can't be called health food, they are certainly healthier. And just as tasty.