We certainly love our French fries. The problem is, they don’t necessarily love us back. Find out why French fries should be a once-in-awhile indulgence, and how to satisfy your fry craving more nutritiously.
Sliced, wedged, shoestring, or curly, nothing beats crispy, hot French fries.
Americans especially love their fries, to the tune of 4.5 billion pounds of fries per year.
French fries are made of white potatoes, which on their own offer a hefty dose of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B5, complex carbs, iron, and fiber.
Of course, French fried potatoes are usually deep fried in oil and liberally seasoned with salt, so they are not exactly known as a good-for-us food.
So what impact do these favorite finger foods really have on our health? And are there alternative ways to enjoy fries that are kinder to our bodies?
Let us first dive into the research, and then learn a few other creative ways we can satisfy our fry cravings while keeping our waistlines intact.
French fries and our health
During a 2017 study, scientists analyzed the potato eating habits of 4,440 adults over an eight year period to figure out whether eating more potato-derived products led to an increased risk of death.
What they found was that eating potatoes in general did not increase the risk of dying, but eating potatoes in French fry form more frequently than twice a week more than doubled the risk.
Why might this be the case? French fries are loaded with salt and fat, two addictive culprits that keep us craving more while promoting cardiovascular disease risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
How much salt and fat are found in French fries? Just one medium 4 oz serving of French fries sold at McDonald’s delivers 18.1g total fat, including 2.7g of saturated fat, 365 calories, and 221.1mg of sodium, which is 10% of your daily recommended amount.
Despite these stark facts, there is no reason to swear off French fries for good. Eating them as an occasional snack while sticking to the recommended portion size - 3 oz, which is 12 to 15 fries at 140 calories - is the key to enjoying fries the healthier way.
But if being diligent about portion control when it comes to French fries leaves you incredulous, consider fries made from a variety of veggies that can still satisfy your craving.
Many veggies can be made into healthier fries
These days, you can find fries made out of practically any type of vegetable.
Sweet potato and zucchini fries are most popular, but eggplant, turnip, carrot, parsnip, jicama, and plantains have all made their debut as fries too. Even butternut squash and green beans can be savored in fry form.
Preparing your own fries at home, whether from white potatoes or any other veggie, by baking them with less salt but lots of seasonings can ensure you can enjoy your fries without the guilt.
Crispy Baked French Fries
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 large yukon gold potatoes (1.5 lbs)
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450F.
- Put parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Wash potatoes (leaving the peel on) and slice into ¼ inch wide sticks.
- Put potatoes into a large bowl and cover with water. Leave for 10 minutes to soak.
- Drain the potatoes and dry well using a clean towel or paper towels.
- Place potatoes back into the bowl and coat with the olive oil and seasonings. Toss well to make sure everything is evenly distributed.
- Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Using a spatula, carefully flip the fries over and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes until crispy and golden.
Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories: 164 Total Fat: 3.5g Sodium: 168mg Total Carb: 31g
Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp spice combination of your choosing (cajun, smoked paprika, pumpkin pie spice, or chipotle powder)
- Preheat the oven to 450F, and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges.
- Place into a large bowl and combine with oil, salt, and spices. Mix well.
- Spread out onto the baking sheet in a single, even layer
- Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, carefully turning the potatoes halfway through for even browning.
- Remove when brown and crispy, but be careful not to burn.
Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories: 255 Total Fat: 6.9g Sodium: 416mg Total Carb: 46g
Oven Baked Eggplant Fries
1 large eggplant
2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 large egg whites
- Preheat the oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut eggplant in half widthwise and then cut into fries. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
- Place breadcrumbs into one bowl and the egg whites into another bowl.
- Dip the eggplant fries first into the egg whites and then dredge into the breadcrumbs.
- Place breaded fries onto the baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes.
- Turn over and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown. Best enjoyed when hot!
Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories: 177 Total Fat: 4g Sodium: 519mg Total Carb: 29g