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Would you like a side of fries with that?
You may love going out to eat and answering “Yes!” every time the waitress asks you that question, and sometimes it’s hard to resist this delicious pleasure food. But be sure to watch how many fries actually end up in your belly. French fries, due to being deep-fried and sodium-heavy, have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic conditions.
You don’t necessarily have to give up this signature side. Instead, try some healthy alternatives that can satisfy your cravings.
Check out some of our suggestions for healthier choices that pack just as much flavor as traditional French fries. Or, if you simply must have a side of golden fries, learn how you can make this food favorite easier on your arteries and waistline.
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Try These Healthy French Fry Alternatives
Sweet potato fries
Sweet potato fries can be cut up to resemble french fries. This alternative is not fried. Instead, put olive oil on them and pop them in the oven to reduce the trans-fat content. They are high in fiber and the orange color identifies that they are a source of heart-healthy vitamin A.
Kale chips are full of vitamins and minerals. To prepare, remove the thick stalks from the kale, then chop into small chip-like pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake until crisp.
Crispy green beans
Crispy green beans can crunch just like fries. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Roast them in the oven until they begin to brown and then take them out and sprinkle them with grated Parmesan before serving.
Roasted parsnip fries
Roasted parsnip fries (a root vegetable like carrots or turnips) can be tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until they are golden brown and crispy. Add flavor by serving with curry dipping sauce.
Parmesan zucchini fries
Slice zucchini lengthwise to resemble fries, dip them in beaten eggs, and roll in a Parmesan mixture. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes and then season lightly with Italian spices and salt before serving.
If deep-fried delights are all you’re craving, try to lighten it up with these tips.
Lighter French Fries
- Don’t “supersize” your order. Ask for a small or kid’s size so that you won’t consume high levels of sodium and calories. Portion sizes have drastically increased over the last 20 years. The average serving of french fries contained 210 calories two decades ago. Today the calories have nearly tripled, with a whopping 610 calories in an average serving. If a smaller size is not available try sharing the fries with someone else.
- Ask your server what kinds of oils are used in the fryer. There are many chain restaurants that use peanut oil in their cooking. Peanut oil has less saturated fat than lard, beef fat, or duck fat, which are also used to fry.
- Try to order or cook thick-cut fries. Smaller fries contain less potato and have more of an unhealthy fried surface than their larger counterparts.
- Eating your fries slowly will help you eat less. This will give your brain enough time to register that you are full so that you will not consume more calories than you should – plus, you’ll be better able to savor every bite.
- Bake or roast the potatoes instead of frying. You can cut back on the amount of oil absorbed in your french fries. Before placing them in the oven, sprinkle some of your favorite herbs over them. Bake them in the oven until they turn golden brown.
Making healthier food choices doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice flavor for fitness. Choose a heart-healthy alternative that can give you the same satisfaction as a salty, greasy French fry. However, if you can’t keep them off your mind, make smart choices about the amount you eat and how they are prepared.
Based in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and more than 700 doctor’s offices and outpatient centers. Our expert physicians are among the leaders in their fields, and we are leaders in groundbreaking research and treatment breakthroughs. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ranks as “One of America’s Best Hospitals” and No. 1 in Pennsylvania in U.S. News & World Report’s listings.