Let me be the first to say that I LOVE chips. As a kid, I felt like a sandwich was incomplete without a few Classic Lays beside it (or on top...mmmm). I loved lemony Cool Ranch Doritos, peppery BBQ Utz, mysterious Cheetos. One year for Christmas, my stocking was literally full of cylinders of Pringles.
But I’m an adult now, with an adult’s metabolism. And there’s no getting around it: most chips are terrible for you. Many leading brands of potato chips have 10 g of fat in a “15-chip serving”—that’s a solid 16% of your daily value! And, c’mon, who eats just 15 chips?
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So what’s someone like me—who’s crazy about crunchy foods, who savors savory snacks—to do? Well, the answer for me came from where I least expected it: kale.
I’d always thought of kale as spinach’s nerdy cousin. If all the vegetables were to throw a party, in my mind kale would be the one lecturing you about Third World debt relief in a corner. It’s bitter, it’s chewy and it goes in things like “vegan tofu scrambles,” right?
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Wrong. As it happens, kale is having a bit of a trendy moment. A-listers like Alex Rodriguez, Gwenyth Paltrow and Christina Hendricks have all recently touted the veggie’s great taste and incredible nutritional qualities on TV and in print. Gwenyth and A-Rod, as a matter of fact, have both gone so far as to publish their favorite recipes for the vogue veggie in cookbooks. (Give it a try! Get started with one of these 19 Delicious Recipes with Kale and More Healthy Winter Greens.)
At the heart of the kale craze is a salty snack called kale chips. They are, quite simply, fantastic. Crisp, light and pleasantly salty, they’re the perfect treat for a junk-food fan like me. One bite and all of my skepticism was blown away! Before I knew it, I’d downed a whole bowl. (Make more guilt-free snacks with these Recipes for Healthier Tortilla Chips, Potato Chips and Dips.)
And, the thing is, that was totally fine. Kale chips have half the total fat of their potato counterparts. The more kale chips you crunch on, the more cancer-fighting antioxidants you feed your body, the more vitamin A you flood your system with (promoting eye health and great skin), the more heart-healthy fiber you load up on. How many snack foods can boast that?
Kale chips are a snap to make. Check out the recipe here:
Makes: 4 servings, about 2 cups each
Active time: 25 minutes | Total: 25 minutes
To make ahead: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Not a fan of kale? These crispy baked kale chips will convert you! For the best result, don’t overcrowd the pans.
1 large bunch kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn into pieces (about 16 cups; see Note)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Position racks in upper third and center of oven; preheat to 400°F.
2. If kale is wet, very thoroughly pat dry with a clean kitchen towel; transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle the kale with oil and sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, massage the oil and salt onto the kale leaves to evenly coat. Fill 2 large rimmed baking sheets with a layer of kale, making sure the leaves don’t overlap. (If the kale won’t all fit, make the chips in batches.)
3. Bake until most leaves are crisp, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 8 to 12 minutes total. (If baking a batch on just one sheet, start checking after 8 minutes to prevent burning.)
Per serving: 110 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 6 g fiber; 210 mg sodium; 642 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (767% daily value), Vitamin C (192% dv), Calcium (20% dv), Potassium (18% dv).
Note: Choose organic kale when possible. Nonorganic can have high pesticide residue.
What’s your favorite low-cal snack?
Matthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.
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