Potato product reviews

Some potato shapes that appeal to kids don’t make the nutritional grade.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

01 .Introduction

Potatoes being roasted

In brief

  • Frozen mashed potato and roast potatoes come at a premium price and rarely taste as good as the real thing.
  • You can buy healthier chips or wedges but many products, particularly those favoured by kids, are heavy on salt and fat.

Homemade chips, it seems, are a thing of the past. Supermarket freezers not only stock crinkle cut, chunky cut, beer-battered, shoestring and slab-cut chips, but there are wedges, fries and novelty shapes, as well as roasted and mashed potatoes. But what is the true cost of this convenience?

CHOICE found some nutritional improvements since we last looked at frozen potato products in 2003. However, while mashed and roasted potatoes save you time, they rarely live up to the real thing – and you pay a premium for them. And when it comes to novelty shapes, such as potato jewels, pommes and curly fries, which kids like, some are among the least healthy. To see how other children’s foods rate, go to www.choicefoodforkids.com.au.

Some frozen potato products are still kilojoule-laden and salty; it may come as no surprise that hash browns won’t be labelled “healthy” any time soon. And some of the worst offenders are those bite-sized novelty products that are particularly appealing to kids.

Please note: this information was current as of July 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Less saturated fats

On the upside, saturated fat is now less of an issue, thanks to many manufacturers shifting from using beef fat to the more heart-friendly unsaturated fats. On the whole, when eaten in moderation and teamed with other vegetables, frozen chips can contribute to a nutritious, healthy meal. So it’s handy to have a bag of chips or wedges in the freezer, and there are some reasonably healthy options out there – you just need to be selective.

Brands tested

CHOICE tested 80 varieties of chips, gems, has browns, mash, roast potato and wedges from the following brands:

  • Birds Eye
  • Black & Gold
  • Coles Smart Buy
  • Home Brand
  • Maggi
  • McCain
  • Seasons Pride
  • WeightWatchers
  • Woolworths Select
  • Unger's
  • You'll Love Coles

Please note: this information was current as of July 2009 but is still a useful guide today.

 
 

Sign up to our free
e-Newsletter

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

 
The following products scored the best results in our test:
What to buy
 
Brand Price
Chips and fries
Lowest kJ
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Chips in Beer Batter $4.65
Lowest saturated fat
McCain Super Fries Chunky Cut $3.40
Lowest Sodium
Seasons Pride Straight Cut Chips (ALDI) $2.00
Wedges
Lowest kJ and saturated fat
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Wedges in Beer Batter $4.65
Lowest saturated fat
McCain Healthy Choice Country Style Wedges $4.10
Lowest sodium
Seasons Pride Rustic Wedges (ALDI) $3.60
Roast
None to recommend
Mash
None to recommend
Hash browns and novelty products
None to recommend
All the products in our What to buy list have a green light for both saturated fat and sodium.

What to buy chips and fries productsWhat to buy wedges products

Full test results and nutritional information for all products are shown in the table below. The traffic light symbols are explained below the table.

Brand / product (ranked by energy within categories)
Energy (kJ/100g)Saturated fatSodiumPotatoPrice / kg ($)
CHIPS / FRIES
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Monster Chips in Beer Batter
437
Green light
Orange light
89 4.65
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Chips in Beer Batter
450
Green light
Green light
89 4.65
Woolworths Select Light Supreme Crunch Chips
466
Green light
Orange light
96 3.3
Birds Eye Oven Bake Chips Chunky Steakhouse
491
Green light
Green light
96 3.5
Birds Eye Oven Bake Chips Homestyle
491
Green light
Green light
95 3.5
Black & Gold Crinkle Cut Potato Chips
496
Orange light
Green light
96 2.55
McCain Super Fries Mum's Cut
500
Green light
Green light
95 3.4
You'll Love Coles Straight Cut
504
Green light
Green light
95 3
You'll Love Coles Steakhouse Cut
508
Green light
Green light
95 3
McCain Healthy Choice Chunky Cut
517
Green light
Green light
97 4.1
McCain Super Fries Chunky Cut
517
Green light
Green light
97 3.4
McCain Super Fries Rustic Slab Cut Skin-on Fries
518
Green light
Green light
97 3.4
Birds Eye Oven Bake Chips Crinkle Cut
519
Green light
Green light
95 3.5
McCain Healthy Choice Straight Cut
519
Green light
Green light
97 4.1
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Chips
526
Green light
Orange light
88 4.3
You'll Love Coles Crinkle Cut
530
Green light
Green light
95 3
Woolworths Select Chunky Steakhouse Chips
548
Green light
Green light
97 3
WeightWatchers Oven Chips
550
Green light
Orange light
96 4
Seasons Pride Café Series Beer Battered Wavelengths (ALDI)
552
Orange light
Green light
87 4
Seasons Pride Café Series Thick Cut Chips (ALDI)
560
Green light
Orange light
92 3.5
Home Brand Frozen Potato Chips Crinkle Cut (Woolworths)
569
Green light
Green light
96 2
Home Brand Frozen Potato Chips Straight Cut (Woolworths)
569
Green light
Green light
96 2
Woolworths Select Crinkle Cut Chips
569
Green light
Green light
96 3
Woolworths Select Straight Cut Chips
569
Green light
Green light
96 3
Woolworths Select Supreme Crunch Chips
569
Green light
Orange light
96 3.3
Seasons Pride French Fries (ALDI)
574
Green light
Green light
95 2
Unger's Crinkle Cut French Fried Potatoes
590
Green light
Orange light
6.6
McCain Super Fries Extra Long French Fries
592
Green light
Green light
95 3.4
McCain Super Fries Straight Cut
592
Green light
Green light
95 3.4
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Shoestring Fries
605
Green light
Orange light
83 4.3
Seasons Pride Straight Cut Chips (ALDI)
605
Green light
Green light
96 2
McCain Beer Batter Fish Shop Chips Crunchy Potato Chips
620
Green light
Orange light
81 4.75
Birds Eye Oven Bake Chips French Fries
633
Green light
Green light
95 3.5
You'll Love Coles French Fries
633
Green light
Green light
95 3
Birds Eye Oven Bake Chips Seasoned Straight Cut
638
Green light
Orange light
87 3.5
Woolworths Select French Fries
640
Green light
Green light
95 3
McCain Super Fries Crinkle Cut
642
Green light
Green light
95 3.4
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Crinkles
643
Green light
Orange light
83 4.3
Black & Gold Straight Cut Potato Chips
650
Orange light
Green light
96 2.4
Coles Smart Buy Straight Cut Chips
650
Orange light
Green light
95 2
McCain Original Crunchy Potato Fries
666
Green light
Orange light
87 4.75
McCain Beer Batter Steakfries Crunchy Potato Fries
679
Green light
Orange light
85 4.75
McCain Beer Batter Thick & Chunky Crunchy Potato Fries
679
Green light
Orange light
85 4.75
Seasons Pride Crinkle Cut Chips (ALDI)
681
Green light
Green light
96 2
McCain Super Fries Shoestring
717
Orange light
Green light
93 3.4
McCain Beer Batter Crinkle Cut Crunchy Potato Fries
812
Green light
Orange light
75 4.75
McCain Beer Batter Thin & Crispy Crunchy Potato Fries
812
Green light
Orange light
75 4.75
GEMS / NOVELTIES
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Potato Gems
639
Green light
Orange light
91 4
You'll Love Coles Potato Royals
643
Green light
Orange light
91 3.5
Birds Eye Potato Swirls
676
Orange light
Orange light
91 7
Seasons Pride Potato Jewels (ALDI)
726
Orange light
Orange light
91 3.6
McCain Potato Nuggets
735
Green light
Orange light
91 4.75
McCain Potato Smiles
740
Green light
Orange light
87 4.75
Maggi Pommes
745
Orange light
Orange light
91 9.4
Seasons Pride Curly Fries (ALDI)
793
Orange light
Orange light
81 6.15
HASH BROWNS
McCain Hash Browns Shredded
732
Green light
Orange light
91 4.75
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Hash Browns
733
Green light
Orange light
90 4.25
Birds Eye Crispy & Golden Hash Browns
733
Green light
Orange light
90 3.95
Seasons Pride Hash Browns (ALDI)
733
Orange light
Orange light
91 3.6
You'll Love Coles Hash Browns
733
Green light
Orange light
90 3.8
MASH
You'll Love Coles Mashed Potato Original
427
Orange light
Orange light
76 4.2
Woolworths Select Mashed Potato with Cracked Pepper
450
Orange light
Orange light
76 4.5
Woolworths Select Mashed Potato
470
Orange light
Orange light
76 4.5
ROAST
Birds Eye Oven Roast Roast Onion & Herb Seasoned Potatoes
484
Green light
Orange light
91 4.35
Birds Eye Oven Roast Country Style Potatoes
565
Green light
Orange light
93 5.1
McCain Mini Roasts Italian Herbs
592
Green light
Orange light
85 4.55
McCain Mini Roasts Sea Salt & Garlic
592
Green light
Orange light
85 4.55
McCain Mini Roasts Sour Cream & Chives
592
Green light
Orange light
85 4.55
Birds Eye Oven Roast Rosemary & Garlic Potatoes
597
Orange light
Orange light
91 5.1
Birds Eye Oven Roast Traditional Style Potatoes
599
Orange light
Orange light
91 5.1
WEDGES
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Wedges in Beer Batter
474
Green light
Green light
88 4.65
Woolworths Select Potato Wedges
500
Green light
Green light
97 4.35
Seasons Pride Rustic Wedges (ALDI)
508
Green light
Green light
98 3.6
Weight Watchers Crunch Oven Wedges
535
Green light
Orange light
96 4
McCain Healthy Choice Country Style Wedges
546
Green light
Green light
97 4.1
Birds Eye Golden Crunch Wedges
564
Green light
Orange light
88 4.3
McCain Original Crunchy Potato Wedges
631
Green light
Orange light
87 4.75
McCain Hot Banditos Crunchy Potato Wedges
651
Green light
Orange light
87 4.75
Seasons Pride Potato Wedges (ALDI)
673
Green light
Orange light
88 3.6
McCain Beer Batter Crunchy Potato Wedges
679
Green light
Orange light
85 4.75
You'll Love Coles Chunky Potato Wedges
730
Green light
Orange light
83 4
Birds Eye Oven Bake Wedges Lightly Seasoned
744
Green light
Orange light
83 4.2

Using the table

Nutrient information

  • Total fat: Green light ≤ 3g/100g, Orange light 3.1g-19.9g/100g
  • Saturated fat: Green light ≤ 1.5g/100g, Orange light 1.6g-4.9g/100g
  • Sodium: Green light ≤ 120mg/100g, Orange light 121mg-599mg/100g

These criteria are based on the latest nutrition recommendations and dietary guidelines established by government health experts in Australia and internationally.

Potato % From each product's ingredients list on packaging.

Price Based on prices we paid in Sydney in March 2009. Sizes vary, so for ease of comparison we have calculated the price per kilogram and rounded to the nearest five cents.

Table notes

ns Not specified.
(A) Cooking instructions recommend deep-frying, which is why the product did not make it into our What to buy list.

A big fat improvement

Given that hot chips are commonly thought of as belonging to the fatty, fast food category, you might be pleasantly surprised to know there are no red lights for fat for any of these products – you can even find some with as little as 2.6% total fat. But the type of fat is just as important, and this is where the improvement lies.

When we last looked at frozen potato products, most were cooked in artery-clogging saturated fat, usually beef fat (tallow). Palm oil can also bump up the saturated fat, so if you’re watching your intake check for both these items in the ingredients list (palm oil may simply be listed as “vegetable oil”).

Today, the majority of products instead contain healthier monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats such as canola or sunflower oil.

All in the cooking method

To benefit from this improvement, be sure to use a cooking method, such as oven bake, grill or microwave, that doesn’t require you to add fat. All but one of the products we looked at provide instructions for at least one of these methods. It’s recommended you deep-fry Woolworths Select Potato Wedges in oil, which is the only reason this product didn’t make it onto our What to Buy list.

Tip:

To get the most nutrition from frozen potato products be sure to cook them in a way that doesn't require you to add fat, such as grilling or oven bake.

Kids' products the saltiest

The saturated fat content of potato products may have improved, but the same can’t be said for salt, with more than half the products having an amber light for sodium. And it’s the products kids are most likely to clamour for that are among the most heavily salted. The worst culprits are:

  • Seasons Pride Curly Fries
  • McCain Potato Nuggets
  • McCain Hash Browns

The recommended serve of each contains about one-third of the upper level of acceptable daily sodium intake for four- to eight-year-olds. Worse still, seven of the eight novelty potato products in our table are in the top 20 for fat. And all five hash brown products make it into the top 10.

As a general rule of thumb, novelty potato products and hash browns tend to be heavy on salt and/or fat, so have them as occasional treats only. Oven chips and wedges are usually a healthier option.

Convenience costs

The emergence of frozen mashed potato since our 2003 test was eye-opening, so CHOICE home economist, Fiona Mair, assessed this new product to see how it stacked up for taste and cost.

Frozen mashed potato can go from microwave to table in as little as 90 seconds (You’ll Love Coles mash varieties), whereas making it from scratch (peeling, chopping, boiling, seasoning and mashing) can take a good deal longer. The frozen versions cost on average 55 cents per 125g serve, compared with 48 cents for the same size serve of our homemade mash. And the taste? Our home economist was unimpressed, commenting that overall the frozen mash tastes “nothing like the homemade version” with a texture she describes as “overbeaten”.

The cooking time for frozen roasted potatoes can be as little as 14 minutes under the grill (McCain Mini Roasts), which beats our time for homemade roast spuds by about half an hour. In our taste test, frozen roast potatoes were tougher on the outside than the homemade version and all brands had a lot of odd shapes and sizes, causing uneven cooking. Frozen roasted potatoes cost us on average 59 cents per 125g serve. An equivalent serve of our homemade version – including the olive oil and salt – cost 48 cents, although you could save more money buying your potatoes in bulk.

To round off the taste test, our home economist also checked out microwaveable packs of raw baby potatoes, which are in the chilled vegetable section of your supermarket. Not surprisingly, they taste no different from when you microwave baby potatoes yourself – but you’re paying $10/kg for the “convenience” of potatoes already in a container with a dab of butter on top. As our home economist commented, “Why bother?”

Try our home economist’s recipes and tips for making the perfect mashed, roast and steamed potatoes.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments