Written By: Owennie Lee, RD
Last Updated on:
Most of us will admit that nothing beats the mouth-watering crunch of hot fried foods. However, fried foods have a big downside – aside from the high calories and fat resulting from deep frying, harmful ingredients such as acrylamide and trans-fat may also lurk in your fried foods. Are there alternatives that allow us to keep the crunch but lose (some of the) calories and fat?
Popular Fried Foods and Alternatives
French fries, also known as chips or pommes frites, have got to be the world’s top favorite fried food. They are enjoyed in different shapes (e.g., potato wedges and curly fries) both as a snack or as the source of carbohydrate in a meal, and are frequently found on the menus of cuisines around the world. An average serving (2.5 oz) of fries carries 231 calories and around 12 grams of fat. A great way to cut down on fat and increase nutrients is to replace traditional french fries with oven-baked yam (or sweet potato) fries. You will be amazed that a similar serving of these delicious fries contains only 30 calories and about 3.5 grams of fat, plus a whole lot more nutrients than a white potato. Just don’t forget to watch the mayo dipping.
Fish and chips
Fish and chips come to mind when British food is mentioned. This popular take-away food consists of deep-fried fish (usually cod or haddock) that is covered in batter or breadcrumbs, and a serving of fries (“chips”). A serving of the deep-fried fish (excluding the fries) contains approximately 200 calories and 12 grams of fat. Switching to oven-baked fish that is coated with bread crumbs, rolled oats, or corn cereal will save you almost 8 grams of fat (and at least 72 calories) per serving.
Fried chicken is not only a fast-food staple in North America; the fast-food chains that feature this (e.g., KFC and Popeyes) have also gained popularity around the world. Fried chicken, especially dark meat, contains a significant level of saturated fats in addition to the total fat and calories. The easiest switch is to order a grilled version, opting for white meat and peeling the skin. That will save you at least 110 calories and 7 grams of fat.
Traditional Japanese cuisine is well-known for being healthy and low in fat – except for Tempura, which is made of a variety of deep-fried vegetables and prawns that are coated in a special batter. Introduced to the Japanese by Portugese missionaries in the sixteenth century, tempura has since become a popular Japanese menu item, second in popularity only to sushi. A regular serving of tempura (prawn and vegetables) contains around 450 calories and 20 grams of fat, thanks to the rich batter that is used for the dipping. To retain crunchiness but trim fat and calories, coat the items with bread crumbs and bake them instead. Your savings: 275 calories and 15 grams of fat.
The various types of schnitzel continue to be some of the most popular menu items in German restaurants. Originally from Austria, wiener schnitzel is a deep-fried veal cutlet. Nowadays, versions of schnitzel made from pork or chicken are also available. One medium serving of wiener schnitzel contains a whopping 750 calories and 35 grams of fat! By switching to a smaller portion (3 oz.) of crispy oven-baked pork chop, you are only faced with about 340 calories and 8 grams of fat. Even if you double that serving to 6 oz., the oven-baked pork chop still saves fat and calories over the wiener schnitzel.
The Bottom Line
With a bit of creativity, we can revamp our favorite fried foods so they can be enjoyed guilt-free. Try baking with a coating of bread crumbs or panko instead of deep-frying. This is a great way of mimicking the crunchiness and preserving the tender texture!
Owennie is a registered dietitian with a soft spot for chocolate and coffee. She is a believer in balance and moderation, and is committed to keeping healthy eating enjoyable and fun. Owennie received her dietetics training in Vancouver, and is a member of Dietitians of Canada and the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. She has experience in a wide variety of settings, such as clinical nutrition, long-term care and outpatient counseling. Owennie has also worked for a community nutrition hotline and participated regularly as a guest radio host, where she enjoyed sharing her passion and knowledge about food and nutrition with people.