3/10/2023 | By Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN

Chips, french fries, tater tots — these are not usually foods you’ll find on any healthy eating lists. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy salty snacks once in a while, and if you’re going to have them, you might as well try to choose those that are the healthiest. The biggest downfalls for most of these foods tend to be saturated fat and sodium paired with very little in the way of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The best way to include these into a healthy eating plan occasionally is to address those issues.

While choosing foods that aren’t loaded with nutritional benefits is fine once in a while, it never hurts to try to get some nutrient bang for your buck. Start by looking for those with the least amount of sodium and saturated fat. This can vary greatly by brand. Next, try to find those created from a nutrient-rich food. Check the ingredient list and look for ones in which the first ingredient listed is a whole grain like popcorn or a nutrient-dense veggie like sweet potatoes.

Helpful hints for choosing salty snacks

Check out the tips below when you’re looking to quench that salty, crunchy craving.

salty snacks

1. Check your serving.

Salty snacks come in all different sizes — think onion rings versus popcorn kernels — be sure to check the specific serving size for whichever one you’re enjoying.

2. Don’t replace.

When you’re adding a food like this to a meal or snack, instead of having it replace a nutrient dense food, like a fruit or veggie, have a small portion in addition to a healthy option.

3. Go easy on the extras.

Often the dips and sauces we enjoy with these snacks contribute extra saturated fat and sodium to our day. Be sure to indulge in them sparingly.

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Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN

Food and nutrition expert Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN is an award-winning, registered dietitian. She has written for and been quoted in hundreds of publications and media outlets, including Environmental Nutrition. She began her love of food and cooking as a girl. Her early food allergies gave her an understanding of how challenging eating can be for some. In deciding to become a registered dietitian, she combined these two parts of her life to help others eat healthfully and manage personal eating issues while enjoying the food they ate.