How Often Can I Eat… Potato Chips?

Plus, how to form healthy chip-eating habits, rather than always inhaling the whole bag, then spiraling into a depressive episode.

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So you want to eat a little bit better, but refuse to subsist entirely on sad salads and depressing handfuls of mixed nuts? Good news: You can have the best of both worlds — that is, good health and good food — so long as you mind your portion sizes and limit how often you indulge in the less-than-healthy stuff. To help you stay healthy and satisfied, we’re asking nutrition experts how often you can dig into your favorite unhealthy snacks without setting yourself back too far. The focus this time around: Potato chips.

Potato chips, of course, have a notoriously unhealthy reputation, even within the junk food world. But that might be less deserved than we’re led to believe. “While there tends to be a lot of fear around potato chips, really, they’re just potatoes, oil and seasoning,” says dietician and nutrition therapist Rachael Hartley. “There’s nothing inherently dangerous about potato chips, and certainly, you could eat them every day if you’d like.”

Not in the ways in which we typically eat them, though. “I think the issue that comes with potato chips is the tendency to eat them mindlessly,” Hartley explains. “How many times have you opened a bag in front of the TV, only to glance down and realize that the bag’s mostly empty and you barely tasted them?” Um, every time (which is admittedly because potato chips — and all that sodium — are designed to be addictive and not so satiating).

That in mind, Hartley suggests taking a different approach to how you eat potato chips, rather than designating when you eat them. “Instead of worrying about how often you eat potato chips, think about how you can eat them more mindfully,” she recommends. “Enjoy chips as part of a planned meal or snack. They’re a lot more satiating when paired with another food — for example, chips and guacamole or hummus, or as a side dish for a meal. When part of a planned meal or snack, you’re more likely to eat an amount that’s appropriate for you.”

Just remember, a serving size for most potato chips is only about one ounce, or approximately 18 chips. Still, if you have a few chips, even every day with some guacamole, you’ll still be a whole lot healthier than if you promise yourself you’ll only have them once a week, then down a whole freaking bag in under a minute every time you get the chance.