Pick up a bag of Harvest Snaps, and you'll be bombarded by impressive claims of good nutrition.
Fresh-picked goodness! 50% less sodium than regular potato chips! 5 grams of plant protein per serving! Our first ingredient is Green Peas! Baked, never fried! Farm direct peas! 50% less fat! The line of Harvest Snaps snacks, manufactured by Japanese snack food maker Calbee, have become wildly popular in America. They taste pretty darn good, too, which makes the big claims on their packaging all the more eyebrow-raising. But just how healthy are Harvest Snaps? Let's take a closer look at this snack time favorite.
Glance at the nutrition facts for a bag of Harvest Snaps Lightly Salted Green Pea Snack Crisps, which the brand calls its "Original" flavor, and its hard not to be impressed. One serving (which is about 22 individual crisps) contains 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 75mg of sodium, 16 grams of total carbohydrate, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of added sugar and 5 grams of protein. It also contains 4% the RDV of calcium, 5% the RDV of potassium and 8% the RDV of iron. Other Harvest Snap snacks, including their lentil-based products, have similar nutrition facts (albeit slightly less fiber and more sodium in many cases).
Compared to an option like Doritos Cool Ranch Flavored Tortilla Chips, which have the same serving size by gram, Harvest Snaps Lightly Salted Green Pea Snack Crips contain fewer calories, less fat, less sodium, and less carbs, yet significantly higher amounts of fiber, protein, calcium, potassium and iron.
Green peas are indeed the first ingredient for Harvest Crisps' pea-based varieties. The full ingredient list for the original variety is, in order: green peas, canola oil, rice, salt, calcium carbonate and vitamin C (asorbyl palmitate). Although Harvest Snaps look like individual green peas that've been "crisped," that's just a bit of smart product design. In reality, green peas are ground up and then blended with rice and canola oil. Additives are then thrown in the mix to help extend shelf life, then the resulting "crips" are salted. For flavored varieties, different/additional spices are added during the manufacturing process.
Compared to traditional junk food chips, Harvest Snaps do appear to have a nutritional edge. But how healthy are they beyond that? When it comes to satiety, the weight of your food matters. Research has found that the average person eats between 3 and 5 pounds of food per day. In a pamphlet entitled Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger, the CDC writes, "Research shows that people eat a fairly consistent amount of food on a day-to-day basis. This finding holds true whether the amount of food contains many or few calories."
"That's the level of food people eat," says Ryan Andrews, nutrition coach at Precision Nutrition. "Whether it's 3 to 5 pounds of cheese and candy or 3 to 5 pounds of vegetables and fruits. It's an important factor to feeling satisfied throughout the day." One cup of actual green peas weighs 145 grams. You obviously wouldn't and shouldn't only eat solely green peas in a day, but if you did, it would take about 9.37 cups to consume three pounds. That would equal about 1,105 calories. To consume three pounds of Harvest Snaps Lightly Salted Green Pea Snack Crisps, you'd have to consume more than 48.5 servings—equivalent to 1,068 individual crisps, or 6,305 calories.
What I'm getting at here is that while protein and fiber are important for filling you up, the weight and density of the food you eat is also hugely important. Real fruits and veggies are almost entirely water, which gives them considerable weight without containing many calories. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, contain almost no water, making them capable of being extremely light yet containing major amounts of calories. The processing methods can also eliminate or negatively alter many beneficial nutrients found in whole veggies. Harvest Snaps are far from the worst ultra-processed snack out there, but they cannot be treated as a replacement for real veggies or lentils. A serving of green peas is going to be significantly more nutritious and more filling than a serving of Harvest Snaps Green Pea Snack Crisps. The lightweight nature of the crisps (along with their tasty combination of salt and fat) makes it extremely easy to overindulge on them, as well. Odds are, you can down an entire bag without thinking twice, and also without putting a real dent in your appetite.
Are Harvest Snaps healthy? If you're looking at the entire spectrum of nutrition, not particularly. Real fruits, veggies and lentils have much more to offer, so these cannot be treated as a replacement. Mother Nature has a way of packaging these foods in a healthy manner, as things like their weight, water content and texture play an important role in their nutrition. All processing certainly isn't bad, but the more we mess with this natural package, the less nutritious these items usually become.
However, if you're looking solely at the junk food options you might eat them in place of, then it's fair to say Harvest Snaps can be healthier than most common choices. However, don't expect them to fill you up, and be careful with that portion size. If you're looking for snacks that are legitimately good for you and can help extinguish serious hunger, check out our list of healthy snacks guaranteed to fill you up.
Photo Credit: Harvest Snaps on Facebook