I had the grandchildren coming to stay so the hunt was on for some healthy snacks. These caught my eye because they were made by Healtheries and had no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours or MSG.

They brought back childhood memories of my beloved potato stick snacks.

I took out one of the packs for a quick snack while I drove home. I took one mouthful and couldn't believe how bad they tasted.

There was a crunch, not much flavour and then a distinct plastic aftertaste. Just to check I asked my husband to try them when I got home and he too tasted the plastic.

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What was in these things?

Ingredients

Potato starch (42%)

This is the starch, which is taken out of potatoes. Think of cornflour which is starch taken out of corn.

Rice
Nothing wrong with rice in here.

Wheat flour
This will most likely be added to fill out the potato stix.

Vegetable oil
Not sure what the oil is in here. These are quite low in fat at just 2.7g per 20 g serving.

Potato seasoning[maltodextrin, salt, vegetable powder (onion, garlic), yeast extracts, mineral salt (508), natural flavour, spices, sugar, anti-caking agent (551), acidity regulator (270, 327)]
There's quite a lot going on in here. Maltodextrin is a form of sugar, yet these are very low in sugar at less than 1g per 20g serve. There is also potassium chloride (508) which is a natural mineral salt, silicon dioxide (551) which is silica and will help keep the seasoning powder from clumping, lactic acid (270) which occurs naturally in milk, and calcium lactate (327) which is a natural acid produced from milk sugar.

My recommendations

In their efforts to make a healthy snack, manufacturers can lose sight of two basic premises when it comes to eating healthy food. First, real food is best, not a paste of various flours and additives extruded to resemble a potato stick. Second, it should taste good. These do not taste of anything except a slight plastic aftertaste which I found shocking. They are also made in China and imported here by a company which proudly boasts on its website that "Kiwis have been relying on our products for over 100 years" and "most of our products are 100% New Zealand manufactured".

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If you want a healthy, real food snack you might want to look at snack packets of plain potato chips (not the flavoured ones). Instead of the 16 ingredients you find in here, you will get just three: potatoes, oil and salt.

Nutritionally the real food potato chips will give you more fat at 6g per 18g but that's a sacrifice I would be prepared to make for the sake of some flavour and real food. And let's not forget that despite its bad reputation, children need fat as an essential nutrient with a host of important functions within the body. It is essential for supplying the body with omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids, producing healthy cell membranes and maximising the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene.

If you're concerned about healthy snacks for children, you might want to concentrate on reducing sugar, which is now thought to be more of a problem for child health than fat.

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