Kettle vs Ajitas side by side
With their bright colours and pack shots of root vegetables, they scream "healthier snack". But are vegetable chips really better? We did a taste test side by side of two brands of vegetable chips and line them up against your standard salted potato crisp to see how they fare.
Orange sweet potato, purple beetroot, white sweet potato or taro. When you open the foil bag, you see the bold bright colours. These chips look yummy and good-for-you – after all didn't our mums always drum into us the importance having lots of colours in our vegetables? The more, the merrier?
Our rating = 3 APPLES
We preferred the Kettle chips straight away – they looked brighter and were nicely thicker than the Ajitas brand. You could really taste the beetroot and you got the sweetness of the sweet potato. The downside was that the Kettle were much saltier to taste - we could even see specks of salt atop the dark colour of the beetroot chip.
In contrast, the Ajitas chips were less colourful and there were lots of broken bits in the pack, even small ground up pieces. However they didn't taste as salty as the Kettle nor as interesting to munch on. Surprisingly both claimed a similar sodium of 420 and 478 mg sodium. Not much between them.
Nutrition 10 out of 20
Their biggest nutrition advantage is the antioxidants (phyto-chemicals) from the colours in the vegetables. The Ajitas claim that they're "rich in antioxidants" with no hidden nasties, preservative-free and gluten-free, all of which are correct.
- All chips can claim to be free of preservatives as they are a fairly dry product (no moisture for any bugs to grow in) and their high salt content also acts as a preserving agent, just like the salted preserved lemons that you make at home.
- All plain chips can also claim to be gluten-free but not the ones with flavours eg nacho cheese.
No figures are listed for the beta-carotene, alpha-carotene or any other carotenoid nor for any anthocyanin that you'd expect in beetroot. So it's impossible to ascertain how much is there.
Cooking usually improves the availability of carotenoids from foods (so cooked carrots have more carotenoids than raw) but prolonged heating over time ends up diminishing any benefit. As they're fat-soluble and fairly stable, you'd expect some to be retained after deep frying but it's just an educated guess.
What antioxidants are likely to be present:
Beta-carotene is an orange-yellow pigment and the best-studied of all the carotenoids. It is converted to vitamin A in the body where it maintains your eyesight, encourages growth in children, keeps skin and mucous membranes healthy, and boosts your resistance to infection. It's long been under study for its role in cancer prevention. As a rule of thumb, the brighter the orange colour, the more beta-carotene a vegetable or fruit contains.
Key sources: pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots, rockmelon.
A cousin of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene is converted to vitamin A but at a lower rate.
It's likely that you'll get some gamma-carotene, lutein, beta-crpytoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin from these chips which are the compounds responsible for the yellow hues. Well-documented as antioxidants.
Anthocyanins are blue-purple pigments of beetroot and other blue-red produce. Under study for their antioxidant and anti-bacterial potential.
Key sources: grapes, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, beetroot, radicchio lettuce. Commercially extracted from grape skins or elderberry.
The saltiness is the real worry. Maybe they taste more intensely salty as all the salt is on the outside so it's what your tongue registers straight away.
The only plus is their high potassium content which helps counteract the damage done by excess salt in the body. All vegetables are rich in potassium, an essential mineral needed for fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve impulses.
How do vegetable chips stack up against potato chips?
Don't kid yourself – vegie chips are still chips with the same problem of regular potato chips - too much fat, too much salt and too easy to overeat. Even coloured, they remain a food that's hard to resist.
Here's the key nutrition numbers from the packs – see how similar are the fat and sodium (salt) counts:
Fat % g per 100 g
Sodium mg per 100 g
Potassium mg per 100 g
|Smith's Simply Salted Potato Chips||29.9||501||1780|
Yes there are a few antioxidants from the colours but not enough to overcome the shortcomings. You can get the same antioxidants from pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, beetroot and other brightly coloured fruit and vegetables which are healthier, cheaper and add more fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Kettle chips make no claims about nutrition, just talk about using the "best quality Australian sweet potatoes beetroot and white sweet potatoes" plus "vibrant colour in every chip", "naturally delicious" and "100% Australian owned".
The closest Kettle get to nutrition is to claim that these chips have 75 per cent less saturated fat due to the use of sunflower oil but then they say the same thing about their regular potato chips. Deep-frying in a healthier oil like sunflower is way better than palmolein (palm oil and high in saturates) which is what chips used to be cooked in. Another reason Kettle gets our vote. In contrast, Ajitas only list VEGETABLE OIL on their list of ingredients but looking at the ratio of polyunsaturates to monounsaturates to saturates, we can deduce it's likely to be palm oil.
Convenience 10 out of 10
Way too convenient. Once you start, you can't stop. You KNOW that. Plus if you munch on them with a drink, they salt up your mouth so you want to drink more as well. You would find a whole pack gets demolished if you had them with a glass of beer on a hot day so they are not food to eat every day. Still special occasion food.
Sustainability 5 out of 10
Kettle are made in Australia by an Australian company. Ajitas are made in Indonesia for an Australian company The Vege Chip Co in Queensland. Both came in a similar foil-backed bag which we hope doesn't end up as trash on a nice beach somewhere that we will pick up on Clean Up Australia Day.
Kettle had only 5 ingredients while the Ajitas had a high of 10 thanks to some sort of seasoning mix which we couldn't really detect. We had to wonder why do chips need yeast extract (is it for the glutamate?). And why do they need sugar or acidity regulator? Regardless of the brand we were left with an overwhelmingly taste of salt!
Kettle vegetable chips
|Root vegetables (orange sweet potato, beetroot, white sweet potato), sunflower oil, sea salt.|
|Orange and purple sweet potato, taro, vegetable oil, seasoning (sea salt, sugar, yeast extract, spice mix maltodextrin [tapioca starch], acidity regulator [citric acid]).|
Overall score 3 APPLES
Total = 31 out of 50.
Vegetable chips do not have enough nutrition advantages to call them a "healthier potato chip".
A chip is still a chip! We would still rate them a special occasion food or a treat to be kept for a party, not something that you munch on each night. They do NOT count as a serve of vegetables!