French fries are generally thought of as being unhealthy, but you might be wondering if this popular American food provides you some any beneficial nutrients. Knowing more about the nutrition and if there are healthy French fry options available can help you plan nutritious meals and lower disease risks.
French fries aren't generally a low-calorie food. Eating just 10 fries means you'll be consuming 120 calories, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you eat 20 French fries you'll be getting 240 calories so choose fries in moderation when trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Macronutrients (Protein, Carbs, and Fat)
French fries provide you with carbohydrates and dietary fat (plus a little bit of protein). A serving of 10 regular fries contains about 2 grams of protein, 4 grams of dietary fat, and just over 19 grams of carbs (including 1.5 grams of fiber). As long as French fries aren't made using trans fats (which significantly boosts your risk for heart disease), the majority of the fat in fries is from mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Micronutrients (Vitamins and Minerals)
The main micronutrients you'll find in regular French fries are potassium and sodium. A portion of 10 regular French fries contains just over 360 milligrams of potassium and 246 milligrams of sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 - 2020 suggest limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
What About Sweet Potato Fries?
Sweet potatoes contain slightly more calories than regular white potatoes, so if sweet potato fries are cooked the same way as regular fries they should provide a few additional calories. But sweet potatoes also contain much more fiber and vitamin A than white potatoes (and are still a good source of potassium), so they offer a better overall nutrition profile.
Lower-Calorie Homemade Fry Alternatives
Baking or air frying fries at home instead of eating regular French fries is a way to help cut calories and lower disease risks. Doing so means you have control over how much oil and salt you add to fries during preparation.
Hot air frying is a cooking technique that allows you to grill, roast, or fry French fries with less oil and fewer calories. You'll still reap the same taste and texture benefits of traditional frying but without the extra grease. Using this method helps preserve nutrients naturally found in potatoes while cutting total fat grams and calories. You'll need to purchase an air fryer to use this nutritious French frying strategy.
Baking is another way to prepare healthier, lower-calorie fries (compared with traditional frying methods). Simply slice your potatoes into fries or wedges, coat them with oil, top with salt or other seasonings, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Using this cooking method will preserve the nutrients in French fries and give you control over the amount of fat, total calories and sodium content.
French fries generally aren't the healthiest option when you're trying to lower disease risks and maintain a healthy weight. However, preparing your own homemade fries (especially when you choose sweet potato fries) means you can maximize the healthiness of this popular American side.