Counting calories? Since fat has 9 calories per gram – more than double the calories of protein and carbohydrate – one of the simplest ways to cut calories and lose weight is to tweak your daily diet and make it lower in fat.
For instance, if you’re slathering butter on your bread, just switching to a light spread cuts the calories by half. Instead of drinking whole milk, switch to fat-free and you’ll skim more than 60 calories per cup. And when you’re cooking, develop creative ways to add flavor rather than fat (example: salsa rather than butter on your baked potato).
And, instead of frying your food, try baking, broiling, poaching or grilling techniques to significantly reduce your intake of fat.
These modifications translate nicely into weight loss and better health.
When it comes to fast food, the dangers are well known. Fried fast food is high in fat, sugar and salt. It’s also cheap and the portion sizes are large. The fried foods that come through the drive-through window are usually full of additives and preservatives.
But it’s the fat that ain’t where it’s at for dieters. A medium-sized order of Wendy’s fries has 410 calories and 20 grams of fat. Smart consumers will customize a large baked potato – ordered without the sour cream – and walk away with just 280 calories and ZERO grams of fat.
But you love fat, you say? Okay, so what if you whip up your fried foods at home – does that make a difference?
It sure can, 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 new book, Villas covers a number of different ways to fry your foods better. He describes 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.
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,” he claims.
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!
Cooking Light recommendations include:
Susan Burke March is Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, who as eDiets Chief Nutritionist promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.