Comparing Lay’s New Air Pops to Classic Potato Chips

Lay's Air Pops

Houston, Texas. We’re wrapping up 3 interesting  days at the annual dietitian conference known as FNCE (Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo), organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association). Aside from interesting educational sessions, there is the expo floor, where many companies have booths with food for dietitians to sample and learn about.

You would think that only healthy, unprocessed food would be present. Wrong. In fact, some of the conference’s largest booths belong to the biggest purveyors of junk food and beverages in the world! Coca Cola, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and others were present and proud to show off their “healthier choices”. And maybe that’s the idea – showing dietitians that these companies are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

At the PepsiCo booth, we found 2 interesting products. One was an unsweetened tea, the other was Air Pops, manufactured by daughter company Frito Lay. According to the person manning the booth, the product is currently available in test markets in Ohio, and will roll out nationally soon. This is supposed to be a lower fat alternative to the good old Lay’s potato chip.

The mouth-feel is a cross between a rice cake and potato chip and there is definitely less greasiness. It tastes like a combination of popcorn and potato chip. Some people may complain that it’s too dry, but the 3 chips we sampled went down fine.

Let’s compare a one ounce serving of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips to Air Pops:
The chips are 160 calories vs. 120 calories for Air Pops. The calorie difference can be attributed to the fat, only 4 grams in air pops vs 10 grams for the chips. The sodium is pretty much the same 170mg for chips, 190 for pops.

The ingredient list is longer than the potato/oil/salt triumvirate of a potato chip:

Dried potatoes, potato starch, rice flour, sunflower oil, salt, calcium lactate, rosemary extract (antioxidant), and ascorbic acid (antioxidant).

Obviously some more processing is going on here compared to potato chips that you could make at home. There are less of the naturally occurring nutrients you would find in a potato chip (vitamin C, potassium). But, if you are getting your nutrients from potato chips, you have bigger problems…

So should you buy Air Pops instead of Potato Chips?

We suggest you buy and eat the one that tastes good to you, and do it rarely. Make sure to portion out the amount you are going to eat into a bowl. Eating out of a bag never ends with just one serving.

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  • Tgw

    I have stopped going to FNCE long time ago and I have stopped my membership to them. As a Registered Dietitian I am appalled how the organization is in bed with corporate America. We need to teach our children to embrace local, seasonal and sustainable food . Proper portions and mindfulness. The tide of obesity and chronic conditions will not be turned around with fast food, processed food and fake food. I support the movement of. “Dietitians with Integrity”. All of us like minded RDs need to support the grass root movement and organize for a better and healthier tomorrow. We owe it to ourselves and the generations to come. Tgw

  • jadegreen_eyz

    The “lower fat” label the food manufacturers tack onto their new air popped products is another means to acquire more profit. You will see lower grams of fat per serving but they give you far less product at a higher price under the guise of a healthier alternative. I have also noticed lately that potato chip bags now have less product but they haven’t lowered their prices.