6 Better-for-You Alternatives to Chips and Crackers
Who doesn’t love a big bowl of chips and dip? Whether you like sour cream and potato chips, salsa and tortilla chips, hummus and crackers or another favorite combination, chips and dip are a tasty, easy snack. However, since you’re usually dipping out of a bowl, it can be hard to keep track of how much you’re eating. Chips and dip are usually served at parties, too, when you’re not paying as much attention to your food because you’re, well… at a party! And while they’re delicious, those chips and crackers – particularly potato chips – can pack big caloric punch with added sugars and grams of fat, even in small serving amounts. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy them! But if you’re going to a party where chips and dip are the main nosh, it can be helpful to have healthy swaps in your back pocket.
Lucky for you, there’s plenty of healthy and nutrient-dense options that are equally as convenient and easy to enjoy with your favorite dip! Next time you make a dip, try one of the crunchy pairings below – your body will thank you.
1. Kale Chips
We’re not going to argue that kale chips are an exact replica of the treasured potato chip. But we will argue that they’re just as delicious and three times as nutritious! A great alternative to your traditional potato chip, kale is a colorful, rigid vegetable whose deep green coloring is indicative of its super powers. High in iron, calcium, and antioxidants, kale chips pack plenty of powerful nutrients, especially when compared to potato chips or crackers. They get delightfully crispy in the oven, and a little salt and olive oil completely transforms their flavor, which some people find a little on the bitter side. We love making our own kale chips because, unlike store-bought potato chips, you can control the grams of fat that you’re consuming. Plus, the curly edges are perfect for picking up dips and sauces. We’d recommend hummus with these greens, but they’d be a great pairing for your favorite sour cream dip as well.
Kale chips also make a delicious crunchy snack on their own, without any dip on the side. You can try our recipe for making them here!
2. Mixed Nuts
Chips, particularly the fried ones, can contribute lots of unnecessary grams of fat to your diet, particularly saturated fat. So rather than reaching for that seemingly bottomless bowl of chips, settle for a handful of mixed nuts instead. While a first glance at the nutrition label might lead one to believe that nuts aren’t a healthy snack, due to the high grams of fat, that’s actually not true! Unlike chips, which tend to contain the most grams of fat, usually saturated fat, trans fat, or both, nuts are high in mono- and poly- unsaturated fats. These are the fats that boost your HDL cholesterol, which is known as “good” cholesterol. Plus, good fats have the added benefit of making you feel full. While nuts might not mix so well with dips or hummus, they’re a delicious healthy snack on their own. If you’re looking for a little more flavor, you can look for seasoned varieties at the grocery store, or make your own! To start, we love these Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts, these Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts, and these Lemon Thyme Roasted Almonds.
3. Homemade Sweet Potato Chips
You’ve probably eaten plenty of potato chips in your life. But have you ever tried sweet potato chips? Sweet potato chips are more nutritious than regular potato chips – you can tell by their color! Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin B6 (which helps reduce the risk of heart attacks) and also contain a good amount of iron, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Basically, these tasty potatoes are healthy as can be. You can find them in most grocery stores now, but the best way to keep an eye on the nutrition information is by making your own! We love this amazing recipe from Martha Stewart. The key is to make sure the slices are all of uniform size, and very thin, so that they get nice and crispy! Sweet potato chips are a great way to sneak your kids some extra veggies, too.
4. Carrot Slices
Chips and guac are always a popular party duo, and we love all of the healthy grams of fat and vitamins you’re getting from the avocados. If you want to really step up the nutrition of this recipe, you can replace the standard tortilla chips with vegetables! Carrots are easy to prep and still give you that nice crunch of the chips, but contain additional health benefits like Vitamin A for healthy eyes and skin. Plus, they contain virtually zero grams of fat. We also recommend red and green bell peppers or cucumber slices, all of which provide a refreshing crunch. Vegetables have benefits for everyone eating them, and they’re also a great option to serve for guests who might be gluten-free.
If you just can’t enjoy guac without crispy, crunchy tortilla chips, but still want to make your snack a little healthier, we’ve got good news for you: there are tons of healthy chip options that you can explore, like black bean, beet or even egg white. Alternate chip options made from veggies or legumes add protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, depending on which you pick out. Dark purple black bean chips or bright pink beet chips are a fun way to convince kids and adults to eat the rainbow, and they make your food even prettier at parties, too!
5. Air-Popped Popcorn
Popcorn gives you the same crunchy bite that chips or crackers offer, but it’s lower in calories and grams of fat (as long as it’s air-popped and not drenched in butter). Popcorn is great because it’s so versatile – its neutral flavor allows for tons of flavor combinations. Bonus points: it’s also gluten-free! While it might be a little small for dipping on its own, you can experiment with flavor toppings and combinations to find one that your taste buds will love even more than your usual chip and dip combo. You can decide whether to go traditionally salty with this snack, or make it sweet with a kettle corn recipe. We also love parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast if you’re vegan, or a simple combination of salt and black pepper.
A few fun and unique popcorn combinations that we love – and that your guests are sure to love – are Mac and Cheese Popcorn, Salty Spicy Popcorn, Buffalo Popcorn, Loaded Baked Potato Popcorn and for dessert: Cake Batter Popcorn!
6. Cucumber Slices
Doesn’t that just sound refreshing? Cucumbers have an extremely high water content, so they get bonus points for keeping you hydrated, particularly if you’re eating a saltier dip. Without a single gram of fat, they’re a much healthier choice than chips or crackers. These pair perfectly with hummus, which makes for a combination that’s intended to rehydrate and fill you up!
If you prefer to stick to chips and crackers, or if you have a dip pairing that simply can’t go without classic potato chips, just make sure you’re checking the nutrition information! In the case of potato chips, you’ll want to watch out for calories, serving size, sodium and grams of fat. You’ll also want to check the ingredients for the type of oil that’s used, as some oils are healthier than others. How the chips are made in that oil matters too, and brands that make their snacks with a healthier process will usually note that on their packaging. After all, it’s something to be proud of!
As for crackers, things to check the nutrition information for include added sugars, total number of ingredients, serving size and grams of fat. Some popular crackers, even though they don’t taste sweet, are hiding a surprising amount of sugar in those crunchy golden squares (or circles)! Others might seem like a healthy choice because they’re low in calories, but only have a serving size of a few crackers. And with a dip as delicious as the one you’re making, who’s only going to keep count? Not us. Comparing the serving size to the nutrition information helps you know exactly what you’re getting into. We also recommend checking the ingredients list: the more ingredients there are, the more processed the cracker is, and therefore, the more likely to be a less healthy choice. There are lots of crackers out there now that boast more nutritional value than average, from ingredients like chia seeds, whole grains or even vegetables. Check the nutrition information to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck!
Bonus tip: If you’re going to a party and don’t think your host will have healthy options for their dip, bring something that’s sharing-friendly like a veggie tray. Your fellow guests will thank you for your hospitality, and you can pass over the chips and crackers with the knowledge that you brought a healthy dipping choice. Besides, with so many people working on their own health journeys, you’re certainly doing someone else a favor by showing up with a healthy, delish option.