America has long had a love-love relationship with french fries. Nothing is more perfect on a Sunday afternoon than a juicy burger, a cold drink, and a basket of crisp fries shared with family and friends. Recent concerns over childhood obesity have lead to what feels like an all out assault on this favorite food item. From being excluded from school lunch menus to being portrayed as one of the key villains in the war against weight, french fries have gotten a bad rap.
In honor of National French Fry Day, which will be celebrated on July 13th, let’s show some love for this American tradition and remind everyone that potatoes are vegetables too!
1. Nutritional Value
Potatoes are still vegetables and have a place in a well-rounded diet, even when they are made into fabulous french fries. Potatoes contain more potassium than a banana and are packed with half a daily serving of vitamin C and as much protein as a cup of milk. No matter what you do with them, potatoes are a solid foundation for a healthy side dish. Pick up a bag of local Arizona grown potatoes and stretch your food dollar while supporting your local Arizona farmers and ranchers.
With such a healthy starting point, it is easy to make french fries everyone will love without stripping them of their nutritional content or adding things that change a tasty treat into a dietary don’t. Start by keeping those nutrient rich skins on the potatoes. You can slice and dice them in whatever way you want, just don’t peel them first.
3. Better Baked
One way to make a healthier french fry is to bake them in the oven. Start with your sliced potatoes and use a plastic bag and a drizzle of olive oil to coat the fries then toss them in your favorite seasoning and spread them out on a cookie sheet. The key to crispness is making sure they are spread out enough that they aren’t touching each other and have space to cook properly. Roast them at 450° for 10 minutes; turn them and then roast for another 10-15 minutes for fries that are crispy and delicious.
4. Good on the Grill
Another way to make great fries is to cook them on the grill. Prepare them just like you would to roast them in the oven and then fire up the grill. Place the cookie sheet on the hot grill and close the cover. Turn a few times to keep the fries from sticking and within minutes you have a delicious accompaniment to your hot dogs and hamburgers. This method also works great with store bought fries that are meant to be cooked in the oven. Make sure you check the nutrition label and pick a brand without trans-fat and with the lowest saturated fat and sodium totals.
5. Fry Them Up in a Pan
Although it is often the act of frying that gets french fries on the “worst dressed” list, you can still achieve that deep fried texture and flavor without sacrificing your health. Instead of immersing your fries in a vat of oil, coat a pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and fry them up in a frying pan. Add your favorite seasoning to spice things up and get ready for everyone to be amazed at how delicious healthy French fries can be.
Don’t let recent news reports and recommendations get you down fry lovers! With some minor modifications and a dash of creativity, you can continue to enjoy fabulous French fries as part of a healthy diet. To find local Arizona farms where you can get potatoes, go to FillYourPlate.org , click on Find a Farm Product, select potatoes from the first drop down list and either the city or zip code then click Search to get a list of links to local Arizona farms that sell potatoes.
- Potatoes Pack a Powerful Punch in the School Lunch Debate (fillyourplate.org)
- Arizona Food Prices Continue to Rise; 7% Above First Quarter 2011 (fillyourplate.org)
- It’s Time Agriculture Takes Back ‘Sustainable’ (fillyourplate.org)