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Chip consumption linked with obesity problems

Chip consumption linked with obesity problems.

The humble potato is highlighted as a problem food in the National Children’s Nutrition Survey released today.

The trouble isn’t with the potato itself but the fat which is added when it is made into chips, wedges and crisps. The biggest single source of fat in the diets of New Zealand children came from potatoes, taro and kumara but none of these vegetables contain fat in their natural state. These foods supplied nine percent of total fat intake and almost half of that came from potato chips and wedges. “New Zealanders, and especially children and young people, seem to have developed a love affair with fried potatoes,” says Celia Murphy Executive Director of the Obesity Action Coalition. “Fish and chips have always been firm favourites for New Zealanders on Friday nights but there are now so many other places to buy chips. Clearly our children are eating too many too often. Chips have become a staple in the diets of New Zealanders but they should be only treat foods. They contain too much fat to be regular items on the family menu and for lunches and snacks.”

Potato crisps, which can contain as much as 38% fat, also feature frequently in children’s diets. Little bags of crisps are commonly given to children in their school lunches and as after school fillers.

“Reducing the chip consumption of children won’t solve the obesity problem on its own but it would certainly help. Replacing chips and crisps eaten as between meal snacks with lower fat foods, and especially fruit, and cooking potatoes without added fat for meals would make a difference, especially for a fat child,” says Ms Murphy. “Schools could also help by taking hot chips and crisps out of their canteens and tuckshops.”

“Food manufacturers and retailers could also do their bit by making sure chips are cooked in as little fat as possible. Reduced fat crisps are already available. Though these still contain around 24 percent fat they are better. If manufacturers reduced the fat content of all chips by even as little as 5 percent it would be helpful. The quality and fat content of hot chips can also be improved by using the right kind of oil and cooking at the right temperature.” says Ms Murphy.

The Heart Foundation has done research into the best way to cook chips and can provide food companies with advice on how to do it.

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