Forget the Fries: Quick and Healthy Swaps for Greasy Foods
What is it about fries? It seems people just can’t get enough of them. It is claimed that McDonald’s converts 3.4 billion pounds of potatoes into fries every year in the USA alone. That’s nearly 10 million pounds a day, from just one fast food purveyor—and it doesn’t count all the other things we love to fry. Yet scientists are increasingly warning us about the dangers of eating too much fried food. How can we satisfy our palate without risking our health?
What are the Risks?
At the simplest level, oil is massively high in calories, so eating anything soaked in it is liable to give rise to weight gain, and being overweight has knock-on effects on many aspects of our health. It stresses our joints, makes it hard to exercise, and increases the pressure on our heart.
Some research indicates that a high proportion of fried food in the diet is associated with a high risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Both are responsible for damaging the quality and the length of life. It appears that the risk may be even greater if oil is re-used for frying multiple times, as this thins the oil and makes the food absorb more of it.
Trans fats and saturated fats are the sources of most risk because of their effect on cholesterol levels, but some oils which are low in these compounds, like sunflower oil, can also pose a risk when they are heated to the high temperatures required by deep frying.
What are the alternatives to frying?
Cutting out the frying pan is not a one-way road to dull food. If it is the crunch that you like, there are ways to achieve that with little or no oil. If you think that frying is the only way to bring out the flavors of the food, it may be that frying often goes hand-in-hand with too much salt, and you are confusing your taste buds. If you think that fried food just looks better, then look again at some of the delicious fat-free recipes that are around.
Giving up frying may open you to the possibilities of different foods as well. Did you know that there are dozens of ways that you can cook sweet potatoes without frying? Look it up online at blog.paleohacks.com/sweet-potato-recipes/.
Cooking with Water
Braising and stewing is a slow way to cook in a liquid that is rich in flavor. This brings out the taste of the main ingredients and combines them in a satisfying way. One-pot recipes generally use this method, and often you can leave the food cooking all day and return to a ready meal in the evening. It is great for root vegetables and more solid food. Tougher pieces of meat (the cuts that have the most flavor) are perfect for this type of cooking.
Steaming is a light-touch way to cook vegetables to perfection. They don’t lose their nutrients or their color into the surrounding water, they retain an enticing crunchy taste, and they look good too.
There are other ways that you can cook, without using water or oil.
Well, maybe just a little oil will help you to stir-fry or sauté your food—just pump a couple of sprays into the pan before your start. It is a fast way to cook, and vegetables particularly retain their shape and texture well, while enhancing their color. Tender slivers of meat cook beautifully this way.
Grilling is a very natural way to cook any food, most closely resembling the way our earliest ancestors learned to cook. It gives a lovely crispy exterior to meat and caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables. It’s even better if you marinade your ingredients first, leaving them with a rich flavor.
Roasting has a similar effect. A spray of oil helps here as well, but the main work is done by the heat of the oven. It is so easy just to put your ingredients into the oven and move them around occasionally, sharing meat juices with the vegetables, until they are done. Anything you can fry can also be roasted.
A Change of Priorities
With frying, the best thing you can do for your health would be to cut it out, but cutting back is the next best thing. The less fried food you consume, if you replace it with equally attractive alternatives, the less you should crave your daily fix of fries and the better you should feel.
Maya Morrison is a bit of a foodie, though also being health conscious Maya can often end up in a bit of a dilemma! She shares her foodie views through her articles offering up tips, tricks and recipes!