Pork rinds (also called pork skins or chicharrones) are another food I never ate before going low-carb. I considered including them in my “Great foods” series, but decided they aren’t in the same nutritional class as foods like almonds, avocados and salmon. Still, pork rinds do fill a need many low-carbers have for a crunchy, salty snack that isn’t a nut.
Pork rinds are a specialty item in comparison to potato chips. The local market where I do most of my shopping carries two brands of pork rinds, in two flavors (plain and barbecue); it carries seven or eight brands of potato chips, in dozens of flavors and textures. Not surprisingly, this means pork rinds are more expensive per serving.
OK, enough of the preliminaries. Let’s get to the smack-down!
In one corner, we have a bag of barbecue pork rinds and in the other corner, a bag of sour-cream & onion potato chips. Both bags were bought at the same store on the same day. Obviously, some results will vary by brand, and cost will vary by brand, location and date of purchase.
The comparison is per a uniform serving size of 28 grams, which happens to be the listed serving size of the potato chips and double the listed serving size of the pork rinds.
Factor Pork Rinds Potato Chips
Cost $0.498 $0.254
Calories 160 160
Fat (sat.) 10g (3g) 10g (2.5g)
Carbs 0g 15g
Fiber 0g 1g
Protein 16g 2g
Sodium 420mg 500mg
The chips are all over the rinds in cost per a 28g serving. In fact, it is even worse than shown in the tale of the tape above because potato chips frequently go on sale. I have yet to see pork rinds on sale around here.
Calories and fat are a wash, and both snacks pack plenty of salt.
Pork rinds land a round-house punch when it comes to carbs and protein. Of course, carbs are the decisive factor; the 15g of carbs in a serving of potato chips render them a highly dubious choice for anyone on a low carbohydrate eating plan.
I’m calling it a TKO for pork rinds.
To be fair, potato chips do have a bit of fiber (but it’s actually less than a gram per serving; I rounded up on the table). A serving of chips also provides vitamin C (10% RDA), iron (6%) and calcium (2%), none of which are matched by rinds.
But nobody eats either of these foods for nutrition. They eat them for crunch and taste — especially the salty taste. For someone on a low carb diet, the rinds are the clear winner.
Here’s one more thing to consider. The ingredients of these flavored potato chips do not stop at potatoes, oil and salt; nor do the ingredients of these flavored pork rinds stop at pork skins, oil and salt. Both products, for instance, contain monosodium glutamate, along with various chemical-sounding additives. Most or all of the extra ingredients seem to be related to the flavorings.
A bit alarmingly for a low-carber, the barbecue pork rinds I examined contain sugar and wheat flour as the third and fourth ingredients. If you eat enough of the things, you may be getting a gram or two of carbs. Plain pork rinds are a better choice in this regard; they are just fried pork skins and salt. I don’t like plain pork rinds, though. So I eat the barbecue flavor, but in limited amounts.
We aren’t talking health food, folks. But on a low-carb diet, if you need some occasional crunch, porks rinds will provide it.
[See my other posts in the Food category.]