Fries don’t always have the best rep when it comes to health. Not only are most fries produced in day-old canola oil at fast food joints, but even finer restaurants load up this infamous side dish with cheese, butter and tons of salt. That being said – fries are pretty delicious, making them difficult to resist when we order a juicy burger.
The good news? There are bushels of vegetables that can easily be morphed from their typical state to fry-like shapes, without losing their nutritious value. While you might not want to deep fry anything if you’re trying to stick to a balanced diet, these babies can be broiled, baked or even pan-fried to give you that crunch you crave.
Go ahead, have a second helping of these veggie fries:
Sweet Potato Fries
While white potatoes aren’t bad for you on their own, once they hit the fryer things start to go awry. One popular alternative is their orange-colored sister, sweet potato. They’re not only an excellent source of many daily vitamins you need: vitamin A, C, B6, B1 and B2 (whew!), but they help promote regular digestive health because they’re rich in dietary fiber and potassium, too. If you want to spice up this side dish, try adding chipotle powder and paprika or dipping them into homemade guac.
Not sure what a parsnip is? It kind of looks like the cousin of the carrot, and packs a bunch of nutritional perks. Not only is it full of Vitamin C and K, but it also has high levels of fiber and potassium. All of these together work to target different parts of body: potassium can help manage blood pressure, vitamin C helps your immune system and vitamin K may be beneficial for bone health. Another bonus? Parsnips aren’t part of the nightshade family, which means they are more autoimmune-friendly than vegetables that are. Making parsnip fries is pretty straightforward – olive oil, salt, pepper and a parsley garnish will do the trick.
Just like parsnips, carrot fries offer many added nutritional value than your traditional oily fries. In fact, carrots can be used to fight all sorts of illnesses and build your immune system, with many long-term benefits too. From reducing blood pressure and facilitating digestion to improving your eye skin and clearing your skin, these crunchy veggies are the all-star of the garden. High in basically everything – vitamin A, K, B6, folate, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron – you honestly can’t go wrong with carrot fries. Best of all, with a little cooking spray and pinch of salt, they’ll be ready in 20 minutes, just long enough for you to shower post-workout.
Portobello Mushroom Fries
Wonder how you get mushrooms into fry shape? It’s easy: think about those chunky potato wedges that you love at a diner. That’s how these delicious fries will come out. If you’re a vegetarian (or just a veggie lover), you already know how juicy and delicious a great portobello mushroom can be – and how awesome they are for your health. They’re low in calories but high in fiber and potassium. Another bonus? Mushrooms are high in vitamin B, and that comes in handy when you need to build up extra energy to push through a tough class or long run. While we think these can stand on their own, if you want to dress up your mushroom fries, add paprika or an Italian spice blend. And if you like a little spicy kick, dip them in horseradish sauce!
In the summertime, it’s easy to fall in love with zucchini over and over again. It’s not only delicious with just a bit of olive oil and salt, but when you turn it into a fry, you’ll be Instagramming your masterpiece, stat. From a nutritional standpoint, these fries offer high levels of vitamin C and magnesium, and some studies even suggest they might decrease early signs of aging and wrinkles. If you’re a cardio junkie, snack on these fries because they also promote cardiovascular health. When you prepare them, try roasting them! Just add some egg and toss with handmade crumbs with some garlic, and you’re good to go.