Are Protein Chips Worth Trying?

Find out how protein chips compare to regular chips and whether they're a healthy snack option, according to dietitians.

Protein Chips
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Most people with muscle-building goals are not strangers to protein-infused variations of traditional snacks. After all, recipe ideas from protein pudding to protein cookie dough are all the rage on TikTok and Instagram alike. It should come as no surprise, then, that protein chips have hit the market, promising a chip alternative for those who want in on the benefits of protein.

Shaped like tortilla chips and flavor-dusted like Doritos, these chips pack a significant amount of protein in a single-serving bag. Ahead, learn more about protein chips, including whether or not they are actually healthy, who should try them, and the potential benefits of adding the crunchy crisps into your diet.

What Are Protein Chips, Exactly?

Protein chips are exactly what you think you are: A bite-sized snack that contains more protein than a regular ol' bag of chips, explains strength and conditioning coach Reda Elmardi, R.D., C.S.C.S., founder of The Gym Goat. Available in supplement stores and fitness facilities, protein chips are significantly higher in protein than the chips you'd typically find in a sandwich shop or cafeteria. For comparison, one serving of protein chips contains roughly 10 to 19 grams of protein, depending on the brand. A bag of Lay's Classic Potato Chips, however, contains 2 grams of protein.

Exactly what these chips taste like varies from brand to brand and flavor to flavor. Quest chips, a popular option, are available in loaded taco, nacho cheese, and cheddar and sour cream flavors, to name a few. NutriWise, Wholesome Provisions, ProteinWise, and PopCorners all make varieties of protein chips.

Are Protein Chips Healthy?

Gone are the days of putting foods into the black and white categories of "healthy" and "unhealthy." Ultimately, whether or not something is healthy depends on how much you're eating and your individual needs, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of the site Better Than Dieting and author of Read It Before You Eat It.

For starters, "any chip can be integrated into a healthy diet," says Taub-Dix. "It depends on how much you're eating." When it comes to your health, moderation is key, she says.

Second, protein chips may be a better choice than some other snack options, but worse than others, depending on your overall diet. If, for example, you are a person who struggles to get an adequate amount of protein in your diet, protein chips are certainly a healthier option than a bag of Doritos, which have around one-tenth the amount of protein. (For reference, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that those on a 2,000-calorie diet consume 46 grams of protein per day.) However, protein chips don't have anywhere near the micronutrient content of a fruit salad or veggie tray, so if you already get enough protein but need to consume more vitamins and minerals, there are better options.

It's helpful to focus on whether your overall relationship with food is healthy. Having a healthy relationship with food can mean viewing foods (e.g. protein chips) as a source of nutrients and comfort, rather than feeling shame and guilt around your choices, as Shape previously reported.

The Benefits Of Protein Chips

Protein chips offer several nutrition perks, mainly thanks to — you guessed it — their protein content.

May Support Post-Workout Recovery

Following a workout, especially strength training, your body needs a combination of protein and carbohydrates to support muscle recovery. Why? During your workout, your body taps into stored glycogen (a type of carbohydrate) in your muscles for energy, explains Taub-Dix. Assuming you went hard, after you've taken that last stride and cranked that last rep, your muscles are zapped of glycogen and littered with microtears, she says.

A post-workout snack complete with carbs and protein helps replenish your muscles of that glycogen and also gives your muscles the tools they need to repair. Your body can break the protein down into little building blocks called amino acids, which help repair torn muscle fibers much like Gorilla Glue repairs a broken chair, explains Taub-Dix.

Note, many nutrition experts believe that the optimal post-workout snack delivers carbohydrates and protein in a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1, which most protein chips do not have. "These protein chips have protein but very, very little carbohydrates," notes Taub-Dix. Quest Nutrition BBQ Protein Chips, for instance, have 19 grams of protein but just 5 grams of carbs. So, you'd be wise to pair the chips with a carb-dense snack such as a banana, dried mango, or toast to maximize post-workout recovery, says Taub-Dix.

Supports Important Body Functions

To be clear, you need protein even if you don't work out. Protein helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, makes and regulates hormones, and supports wound repair, says Taub-Dix. "Inadequate protein intake can lead to skin, hair, and nail problems, increased risk of injury, and delayed healing, and generalized weakness and fatigue," says Elmardi.

As for how much protein you need, experts generally recommend consuming around .75 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight if you're active and no less than .5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight if you're sedentary, as Shape previously reported. So if you weigh in at 200 pounds, that means you should aim to consume somewhere from 100 to 150 grams of protein per day.

The 20 grams of protein you get from protein chips may not sound like a significant contribution to that total daily intake, but in reality, it is, according to Taub-Dix. "For a sense of just how much protein that really is, you need to consider that that's about the same amount of protein in a 3-ounce chicken cutlet or three eggs," she says.

Can Support Weight Maintenance Goals

If you need to lose weight or are trying to maintain a healthy weight, protein chips could be a good snack option for you, according to Elmardi. They offer a similar texture and flavor profile to other chips, but contain more vitamins, minerals, and protein. And because "they have protein in them, they're also going to be more filling compared to other chips and crunchy snacks," says Elmardi. If you're full, you're less likely to consume additional servings or snacks, a move that can contribute to weight maintenance goals.

Who Should and Shouldn't Eat Protein Chips?

Protein chips are primarily marketed to meatheads and snack queens. But ultimately, anyone who is paying extra attention to their daily protein intake or who's partial to crunchy snacks might enjoy the chips.

It's worth noting that there are a number of dietary restrictions that could make protein chips a poor choice for certain people. Many of these protein chips (Wholesome Provisions and Quest chips, for example), get their protein from whey protein isolate, which is a milk product. "Whey protein isolate is going to be a problem for anyone who is lactose intolerant," says Taub-Dix. "Even someone with a mild milk intolerance could wind up spending the day in the bathroom after eating a bag." The whey protein isolate in many protein chip options means they're also unsuitable for vegans who can't eat animal-based products.

If you need to avoid milk and milk products for whatever reason, look for a plant-based protein chip, says Taub-Dix. PopCorners Flex Protein Crisps, for example, are a plant-based option that gets their protein from soy protein concentrate. Meanwhile, WonderSlim Pea Protein Chips get their protein from pea protein. Just keep in mind that both of these plant-based options contain just 10 grams of protein — while that's still a significant amount of protein compared to the standard chip, it's about half the amount of protein of other protein chips.

All things considered, protein chips can make a healthy addition to your diet, particularly if you find it difficult to consume enough protein each day. If your main concern is to find a snack option that's portable, salty, and crunchy, it can fill that need too.

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