I generally live a very low sodium lifestyle, and I keep my food choices as basic as possible. For carbohydrates, I frequently eat whole wheat bread and brown rice. Most evenings, I have a slice of whole wheat toast with a tablespoon of sugar-free preserves as a snack. Recently, though, I’ve been craving more sodium and savory snacks. I think it may have something to do with the increase in temperature and the resulting increase in sweat. When I was in Wal-Mart the other day, I looked at some healthy-looking carbohydrates that would fill that sodium craving. It came down to two.
On the left, we see Great Value “Hearty Grains,” a store-brand corn chip available at Wal-Mart. Its packaging includes the words, “Sea Salt” in giant letters. Sea Salt is a great source of sodium, but it’s no healthier than plain table salt. On the right, we see “Chip’ins,” which is a popcorn-based chip, also advertising sea salt.
My first instinct was to flip the bags over and compare the nutrition labels side-by-side.
|Serving Size||28 g / 1 oz.||28 g / 1 oz.|
|Protein||2 g||2 g|
|Carbohydrates||19 g||22 g|
|Fat||6 g||2.5 g|
|Fiber||2 g||1 g|
|Sodium||110 mg||210 mg|
|Servings Per Bag||10||6-7|
|First Ingredient||Whole Grain Yellow Corn||Corn|
|Second Ingredient||Sunflower Oil||Sunflower Oil|
I was very happy to find that the suggested serving size of both of these products was identical. This made comparing the other values simpler. When comparing products with different serving sizes such as Yogurt A, which suggests an 8 oz. serving versus Yogurt B, which suggests a 6 oz. serving, there’s math involved.
Calorically, they’re in the same range. Since I’m a calorie miser, I’d call the Chip’Ins the better product in this category. Both products have two grams of protein. Per ounce, the Chip’ins have slightly more carbohydrates. According to the diabetic exchange, a “serving” of carbohydrate is 15 grams. More on that near the end.
The Hearty Grains product has more than twice the fat than the Chip-Ins. I was surprised to see this, and it explains why it also has a higher calorie count. Of the 6 grams of fat per ounce, the Hearty Grains have 0.5 g saturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, and 3 g monounsaturated fat. While unsaturated fats are preferable to saturated fats, I’m looking at this as a carbohydrate choice, so I’ll consider the Chip’Ins a better bet.
In terms of fiber, the Hearty Grains outweigh the Chip’Ins 2 to 1. Fiber is a great way to add bulk to your diet and make you feel fuller longer. It’s why eating an orange is preferable to drinking orange juice. If you’re looking for fiber, Hearty Grains would be the better choice.
Sodium is the foe of many people suffering heart disease and obesity. Sodium intake promotes water retention, which can be a bummer on weigh-in day. The typical American consumes far more than the recommended 2400 mg per day of sodium. For those trying to avoid sodium, the Wal-Mart product is the healthier choice. Since sodium isn’t a major concern for me, the fact that the Chip’Ins have twice as much sodium isn’t a deal-breaker, although it is something to be mindful of.
Bang for your buck — the Wal-Mart brand contains nearly twice as many servings as the name brand product. If you’re looking at pennies per calorie, it’s a no brainer. I’m more concerned about value than cheapness, however. The only way to tell if a product is worth buying is to test it out. I bought them both, brought them home, and decided to eat half a portion of each.
The million dollar question — how much is a portion? The bag says a serving is 1 oz. To the diabetic exchange guidebook!
This page, from “Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Weight Management” explains that a serving of carbohydrate has 15 grams of carbs, 0-3 grams of protein, 0-1 grams of fat, and 80 calories. Looking back at the nutrition panels, I eyeballed that a portion would be around 2/3 of an ounce, or around 15-20 grams.
I set my scale to zero and weighed out 10 grams of each of the chips, placing them side-by-side on a plate.
The Hearty Grains by Great Value had a melt-in-your-mouth texture similar to Baked Lays, although a little less crunchy and a bit more dissolve-y. They had a nice flavor, but they melted away to nothing too quickly. The Chip’Ins had a much more crunchy, substantial texture, similar to a tortilla chip. They tasted of popcorn, but they weren’t brittle or full of air like puffed rice cakes are. I much preferred the popcorn chips as a vehicle to shovel salsa.
To summarize, Hearty Grains are lower in sodium, cost less, and have double the fiber of the popcorn chip. Chip’Ins have considerably less fat, a much better mouth feel, and fewer calories per ounce. The product I’d buy again is the Chip’In, although I might investigate ways to make my own popcorn chips. I’ve already learned how to make popcorn cookies.