Reporter: David Richardson

They're Australia's favourite and most popular snack. The good old deep fried french fry or chip. But a new survey of our chips has turned up an unexpected result about what is the healthiest and worst for us.

"It's bad for you because it's full of salt and generally the chips that we buy are made in saturated fat and deep fried in the cheapest saturated fats you can find", says Arlene of Nutrition Australia.

Nutrition Australia looked at all the forms of chips Australians buy, from packet after packet of frozen french fries, wedges and crinkle cuts to some of our favourite takeaways and the worst is one we prepare at home.

Too many Australians buy frozen chips but then re-fry them again in oil. Deep fried, they hold 39.6 grams of total fats. "When you buy those baked chips they're pre-baked in fat, so unless you bake them in your oven which most people don't because it takes too long and most people are in a hurry, they re-fry them again so they're adding extra fat," said Arlene. "It's a double whammy. So you're ending up with much more fat than the fatty chips you're buying at the shop in the first place," Arlene says.

Nutritionist Arlene Normand loves chips but she prefers to do them the old fashioned way drizzled in a little oil, baked or pan fried. Is there such a thing as a healthy french fry or chip? "You can make healthy chips if you cut potatoes very thin and ideally leave on the jackets where all the fibre is and spray them with olive oil and bake them in the oven you do get a really tasty chip," she says.

McDonalds scored 28.5 grams of total fats in their famous french fries, Hungry jacks 20.7 grams, KFC held 15.5grams, while regular frozen chips bought at the supermarket and oven baked had 15.2 grams. Nando's 150 gram chip pack had 13.9 grams of total fats.

"There are certainly some very unhealthy versions out there," says Barbara. Barbara Eden from the heart foundation is working with companies big and small to cut down fats in chips and other fast foods. "That means they're cooked in healthier oils that might be based around canola, sunflower, safflower or peanut oils. They're the ones that have a lower saturated fat level," said Barbara.

The chip business is far from small potatoes. The spud is Australia's largest vegetable crop, with the vast majority of potatoes grown going straight to the factory to be cut up, cooked and frozen; a 152-million dollar industry that is slowly being made more healthy. "Are healthier chips less tasty than the old ones? Certainly not our experience working with those big food chains shows that they can move to healthier oil and the consumers haven't noticed," says Barbara. But one company is boasting of a machine that makes the world's first skinny chip.

"It makes chips with only a 3% fat content from a tablespoon of oil," says Kerrie. "It's called the Tefal Actifry, a kitchen appliance that takes freshly cut potato chips and wedges and cooks them with hardly any fat or oil needed at all. Kerrie Chappell explains, "in about 35 to 40 minutes you have what you think is a deep fried chip but there's only 3% fat content versus 16% fat content. So it really is a healthy alternative for people who like their deep fried chips."

Fast food companies are looking at new oils to fry our chips. For one breed of chip lover, health issues are completely ignored. "Chips are fine if they're part of a balanced diet. So if you stop and get your packet of chips say for lunch, that's fine. But providing you're having your fruit your vegies and all the rest of your meals are balanced and not deep fried one packet of chips isn't going to harm you," says Arlene.



Retails for $349.95.