This Just Might Quash Your Chips Snacking Habit

Tempting bowl of tortilla chips – can you eat just one?

I don’t often seek out potato chips for a snack, but put a bowlful in front of me and unknowingly I’m in a race to the bottom of the dish. It’s the same with white cheddar popcorn or nacho tortilla chips. I often think the savoury scent and texture remind me of something I might eat for dinner. Heck, even the flavours – like roast chicken, ketchup, bacon and wasabi – suggest it’s a meal replacement. No wonder I don’t seem to be able to just “snack” on chips. Until… I was at a press event for Québec oil brand Maison Orphée to do a “seed oil” tasting. It’s like an olive oil or wine tasting, where you note the colour, scent and layered taste, comparing it to other recognizable flavours. Then we talked about potato chip oil, which is now my hack for eating healthy.

Sweet Jesus?! Do I have to cut out sugar completely?

Chips smell bad

Take this in. “Sometimes when you open a bag of chips, what you’re smelling is the rancidity,” says Anthony Dewald, senior technical advisor for Maison Orphée, on a Zoom call from Québec City. He says this right after encouraging us to smell and taste the brand’s non-GMO (genetically modified organism) premium cold-pressed canola oil, which is pretty neutral in scent and taste. 

Dewald points to notes of turnips, cabbage and root vegetables for the Maison Orphée Organic Unrefined Canola Oil. I immediately pick those up, reminding me of helping my dad as a kid to prep for Sunday dinner peeling the vegetables. But it’s when we smell a rancid sample that Dewald likens it to paint, a wet towel, a new car, a carpet, a crayon – and chips. He’s right. 

“The enemy of the oil is oxygen, light and heat,” he says. “Those are the three main exposures that oxidize the food and make it rancid.” I take another deep whiff of the bad stuff. This time I smell chips and remember cleaning the deep fryers from my fast food job from my high school days – a scent that would linger in my car and on my clothes. Suddenly chips don’t smell so good. Not appetizing at all.

Élisabeth Bélanger, CEO and co-owner of Maison Orphée, says that we’ve become used to the smell of rancid oils and likely have eaten it (yup!). To smell it for yourself, she says the next time you’re finishing a bottle of oil, leave off the cap and let the air, light and heat get to it. Then take a sniff. “It’s going to be rancid,” she says. “Train yourself to know what it smells like. When you open a bag of chips, and it smells very oily, greasy and that aftertaste, it’s like butter being left out for too long.”

Healthy snacks that taste healthy – and some that don’t (in a good way).

What happens to refined oil?

Also, chips are made with refined oil, and Belanger says it’s devoid of the good nutrition that you want from good fats and oils. “All of the vitamins, antioxidants have been washed away, and you’re left with fat. That’s it – very cheap fat.” 

Healthy snacks you can buy in Canada – the sweet, sweet packaged edition.

Can you eat expired chips?

I mean, do you want to? The more expired the chips, the more intense the bad oil scent will be. But if the chips look OK (no mould or moisture) and taste a bit stale, you could spritz them with fresh oil and pop them in the oven on low heat to crisp them up, suggests one food expert published on

Me? I’d rather toss it into the food compost bin. The original smell will stick with me… why? See below. 

How to host a tequila tasting party.

What do negative scents mean for snacking?

Switching my perspective of the chip scent suddenly made them unappetizing. And science says that it’s a very physical reaction to not like a scent. In fact, when you don’t like a smell, it creates “avoidance motivation,” according to researchers in Switzerland, who published their study in the medical journal Cortex

So, can I eat just one chip? If it means my mind going back to making minimum wage and smelling like fries for a week, yes, I can eat just one.