4 Incredibly Delicious and Healthy Alternatives to Classic French Fries

No one can resist a plate of crispy french fries made in hot oil. But we all know they are not the healthiest of snacks. While potatoes are not inherently bad for us, the frying at high temperatures and the high level of fat left behind can be a cause of inflammation, so traditional french fries are a big no-no.

I’ve come up with some healthier alternatives. These baked “fries” contain far less fat, and I used extra-virgin olive oil, which is beneficial in small amounts. They are also baked rather than fried. Cooking at a lower temperature like this will decrease the amounts of a toxin called acrylamide, which has been linked to inflammation in the body. The delicious crispy edges that are characteristic of fried foods can still be achieved at lower temperatures in the oven. It just takes a bit longer.

The process of frying has two aims. First, it dries the food out quickly, so the “smoke” you see coming off the oil when you drop your fries in is steam coming out from inside the cells of the potato when the water inside the cells boils. Second, oil is also a very good conductor of heat so that it heats the food evenly and, at high temperatures, this browns and caramelizes the outside, creating the sweet, charred flavors that we love.

“Frying” in the oven can still achieve these flavors. When vegetables are brushed with a little oil and cook at lower temperatures, they will still crisp up over time but without the harmful side effects of using higher temperatures. Cooking at lower temperatures also preserves more of the goodness already present in the vegetables, which are the vitamins and minerals that we need to keep our body fit and healthy, fighting off disease, or recovering from injury.

1. Baked French ‘Fries’

This recipe demonstrates that you can still enjoy delicious french fries without actually frying them. The humble potato is dressed with olive oil, salt and ground black pepper and baked until crisp.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large potatoes (Russet potatoes are best)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch slices lengthways and then into 1/4-inch fries. 
  3. Place the fries onto a tray lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Then, season liberally with salt and black pepper.
  4. Toss or stir the potatoes on the tray to make sure they are covered with oil and seasonings. Spread the fries out evenly on the tray.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. 
  6. Leave to cool on the tray and serve warm.

2. Baked Root Vegetable ‘Fries’

This technique can be used to turn any root vegetable into a delicious french fry. Carrots, squashes, turnips ― you name it. The high natural sugar content in root vegetables gives them great caramelization and delicious flavor when cooked this way, and they can be dipped into your favorite salsa or hummus.

Root vegetables are naturally high in vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, all essential nutrients for your body. With only around 50-100 calories per 1/2 cup cooked serving, they are a fantastic way to get natural sweetness, starch and fiber as well as all those essential nutrients, into your diet, Made this way, you won’t even notice that you are eating something healthy.

This recipe is for butternut squash fries, but you can replace with the same quantity of several different large root vegetables, including carrots, turnips, yams, and celery root. I don’t peel the vegetables if I can help it as the skin is full of nutrients and flavor and also helps to make them extra crispy. However, with thicker, tougher skinned roots, peeling is necessary.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 butternut squash (or other root vegetable)
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Peel and core the butternut squash then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Then pile a few slices up and cut them again into 1/4-inch fries, nice and long to make them like look like french fries.
  3. Place the fries onto a tray lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Crush the garlic cloves and rub the whole lot together coating everything. Then, season liberally with salt and black pepper.
  4. Toss or stir the potatoes on the tray to make sure they are covered with oil and seasonings. Spread the fries out evenly on the tray.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy. 
  6. Let them cool slightly on the tray as they will crisp a little more, and then serve.

3. Crispy Kale ‘Fries’

Kale is the super-trendy, superfood that doesn’t seem to be losing its appeal. Perhaps that’s because it is packed with goodness. Luckily, it also makes a fantastic crispy snack after only minutes in the oven.

The dark green color of the cruciferous leaf is indicative of its bounty of nutrients. It is high in vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber and carotenoids, all essential for a healthy body, and especially good when you are recovering from injury and need your body to be at its best.

Kale contains 45 different flavonoids with a variety of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. These also deliver a fantastic flavor that you will find out when tasting these chips.

This recipe is very easy to produce. The kale stems are trimmed away, and the leaves are blanched to keep their vibrant dark green color and soften them. Then, they are baked in the oven until toasty and crisp. Just a little olive oil, vinegar and salt and ground black pepper bring out all the goodness and make these a tasty, guilt-free snack.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 bunches of kale
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Prepare the kale into long strips by cutting out the thick central stems. Thinner stems can be left intact.
  3. Blanch them for 1 minute in salted boiling water, then cool in cold running water and pat dry.
  4. Place onto a baking tray and coat with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy and slightly browned but retaining the green color.
  6. Spray or drizzle with vinegar and enjoy.

Asparagus ‘Fries’

Asparagus is widely touted as an aphrodisiac, and I cannot substantiate these claims, but if this is true, it’s another bonus to this versatile vegetable. What is known is that asparagus is packed with great antioxidants and other nutrients.

Containing vitamins E and K, folate and beta-carotene, asparagus also benefits us by being low in fat and sodium, and low in calories at around 20 per serving of five spears. It also contains minerals zinc, magnesium and selenium, helping to maintain that balance of nutrients in an active body.

The taste is one of the most delicious in the world of cooking, and asparagus season is always an exciting time for chefs, who look forward to new ways to bring out the best in the vibrant but delicately flavored spears.

Asparagus is best when very fresh, so try to find a bunch at a quality organic store or farmers’ market. Look for tender young stems for the best taste experience. However, this recipe is perfectly fine with tougher asparagus if that’s all you can find.

The spears are sliced along their length and then tossed in a delicious coating to help them crisp up, then baked in a hot oven. These are great as a healthy snack or would be excellent as a side with some baked fish. Try dipping them in a soft-boiled egg for a nutritious breakfast.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 asparagus spears
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs (can use gluten-free breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Slice the asparagus into long “fries” lengthways.
  3. Mix the ground almonds, chia seeds and breadcrumbs in a bowl and spread onto a plate.
  4. Crack the egg into another bowl,
  5. Toss the asparagus fries into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture and repeat if necessary until coated evenly.
  6. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
  8. Drizzle with a little lemon juice and serve.

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