Every time I grocery shop, I walk by the 4 finalists for Lay's Do Us A Flavor competition. In recent weeks, I've had various discussions about them with friends; the words "ewww" and "disgusting" have come up a lot. Created by real people, the chip contenders are Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Cappuccino, Wavy Mango Salsa, and Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger; public voting is open until October 18. With the winner taking home $1 million, this is no small potatoes contest.
I haven't yet sampled any of them, and I have no desire to. For me, the good old potato chip—sans flavoring—is just fine, a treat I allow myself on rare occasions given that about 15 Lay's classic chips run 160 calories and 10 grams of fat (that's 16% of the recommended daily value). Sure, I could go for baked versions or healthier alternatives like Popchips, but I'm a chip purist. I love their pure potato goodness, a taste that takes me back to grade school when I'd trade my life away for a bag of Wise.
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Americans hardly need more reason to down chips, yet companies keep upping the flavor ante. Pringles is currently offering limited edition Cheese Burger, Chile Con Queso and Chile y Limon chips. Frito Lay's Doritos page lists 17 varieties. Stacy's Pita Chips has plans to launch a Salted Caramel variety. One can only imagine what's coming next: Peanut Butter and Jelly Fritos! Ruffles Lasagna Potato Chips! Herr's Candy-Corn Flavored Chips!
Now, I won't be putting up a petition on change.org against Chips 2.0, but I sure hope the gourmet potato chip trend dies down. More flavors does not mean better taste, and it definitely does not mean slimmer waistlines. Traditional treats, enjoyed in moderation, are worth their salt.
Ellen Seidman is a Contributing Features Editor at Health.