Can Fried Food Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Fried foods taste so deliciously decadent there’s no way they can be part of a healthy diet, right… right?!

When it comes to fast food, the dangers are well known. Fried fast food is high in fat, sugar and salt. It’s also relatively cheap and the portion sizes tend to be large. The fried foods that come through the drive-through window are also usually full of additives and preservatives.

But it’s the fat that ain’t where it’s at for dieters. But you love fat, you say? Okay, so try whipping up some of your favorite fried foods at home.

It can make a difference, says James Villas, author of Southern Fried. The former food and wine editor for Town & Country magazine says, “If you do it right, you’re going to enjoy crispy, not greasy food.”

In his book, Villas reveals how to best pan-fry in a skillet – or even deep-fry without guilt. Villas suggests that newer home fryers are easy to use and they get the cooking oil up to the proper temperature so foods are cooked ultra-fast.

He says what you get is flavorful food that’s crispy and tender – and not “soggy and greasy and those things that people associate with fried food.”

Consumption of fried food has long been linked to obesity, but only a few studies have assessed the relationship between fried food and obesity. The research is substantial about eating fried foods away from home, but in-home fried food consumption has not been studied as extensively… until recently.

In an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who ate the most fried food at home consumed the most calories and were more often overweight.

But an article in TIME magazine put a different spin on fat in food. It noted that a Spanish study discovered that diners did not have health risks associated with the consumption of fried fast foods. Healthy cooking oils could account for the difference; the studied group ate foods cooked mainly in olive and sunflower oils.  It’s the “other” oils that are more prone to break down into harmful trans fats.

But is there really a way to have your fried chicken and eat it too – without the dietary damage associated with fried foods?

Most experts will say yes – if you eat your fried chicken in moderation.  Even Chef Villas says that moderation is the key to fine Southern dining.

He noted, “One thing is Southerners don’t eat fried food every single day, which is a misconception people have. And it’s just common sense and moderation.”

We say amen to that … now pass the fried chicken!

But first, check out these fried food recommendations from Cooking Light:

  • Keep oil clean and avoid reusing it.
  • Use gluten-free breading to reduce absorption.
  • Maintain a proper temperature to keep your food crispy rather than oil-soaked.
  • Drain food on paper towels after cooking; this prevents excess oil from soaking into it.

 

Susan Burke March, MEd, RDN, CDE – Food, Nutrition, and Your Health columnist for www.CuencaHighLife.com

 

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