As heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the US, an easy swap from fried foods to faux fried foods can make a huge difference in your health. While I will admit, fried food does taste good; it's just not worth the havoc that it wrecks inside of your body. Fried foods, such as fried chicken, French fries, doughnuts, etc., have been shown to not only clog your arteries, but cause inflammation throughout your body as well. As a dietitian, people tend to assume that none of us eat fried foods; well, that's not entirely true, not me anyway! I just take my old favorites, like French fries, and make them in a healthier way. There is nothing greater than serving a group of self-proclaimed junk food eaters a healthy meal that tastes just as delicious as one they're used to. You don't have to give up your favorite fried foods to be healthier; just try these faux fried foods for a healthy spin on your old favorite, in or
der to keep your arteries clean and your blood pumping!
1. Faux Fried Panko Chicken
As a vegetarian myself, this is the faux fried foods that I use to wow over my carnivore friends and family, showing them that healthy food can taste delicious. Panko is Japanese-style breadcrumb that is made out of crustless bread. The crumbs are very light and flakey giving this faux fried chicken the same crispy mouth feel as that of traditional fried chicken. I like to use chicken tenderloins the best when making this dish so that each piece is evenly coated with the flaky crumbs. Dip each tenderloin first in a whole grain flour, next in a bowl of egg whites and lastly in the panko bread crumbs to ensure that the crumbs stick during cooking. Bake or broil the tenderloins in the oven depending on the thickness of your poultry until the proper internal temperature has been reached. Serve the faux fried tenderloins with your favorite barbecue sauce and your guests will certainly be asking when you will cook for them again!
2. Chicken Faux Fried Tofu
Vegetarians and tofu lovers, you read that right: Chicken Faux Fried Tofu. If you grew up in the south, then you're used to seeing things like "Country Fried Steak" or "Country Fried Chicken" on the menu, but maybe not this tofu variety. Cooked similarly to the chicken above, or using an egg replacer to make the dish vegan, this dish is one to please tofu lovers and non-tofu lovers alike. There is no need to deep fry the tofu when baking or pan frying will do the same trick without the damaging side effects of deep fried foods.
3. Sweet Potato Faux Fries
Most people assume that ordering sweet potato fries at a restaurant is a healthier option over regular French fries. I wish this was the case, but unfortunately, it isn't so. Made at home however, these tasty little fries send French fries running for the hills. Full of vitamin A for good vision and baked rather than fried, these sweet potato faux fries are a regular staple in my house. Cut the potatoes into wedges, toss them in coconut oil, paprika, salt and pepper and into the oven they go until perfectly crispy and delicious!
4. Faux Fried Okra
Again, another staple in the south is fried okra. Even self proclaimed vegetable loathers love fried okra. But did you know that you can still have your southern favorite, just served up in a healthier way? Starting with fresh or frozen okra slices, cook them in the microwave first. Once they have been cooked, all you have to do is toss them in a little bit of oil, cornmeal, panko breadcrumbs (as mentioned above), garlic salt and pepper and then thrown them in a hot oven and bake until the okra is crispy to your liking. Okra is very low in calories and full of many vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, folate and vitamin C, however, when fried all of those wonderful health benefits are thrown to the wind!
5. Quinoa Fried Rice
Traditionally, fried rice is made out of white rice which is stripped of it's nutritional benefits, as well as sends your blood sugar sky rocketing only to let it crash shortly after. That can be changed, however, by using quinoa instead of white rice. Quinoa is very high in vitamins and minerals, as well as a great source of protein for all of you vegetarians and vegans out there. Not only that, but it is high in fiber which will balance out your blood sugar too! No energy crashes here! Made on the stove top just like it's white rice version, this dish is full of good-for-you vegetables without many even realizing it!
6. Faux Fried Coconut Shrimp
The debate is certainly out their on whether or not shrimp is a healthy food, however, if you do choose to include shrimp in your diet, the best way to do so is by trying these faux fried coconut shrimp. This is another one of my family's favorites, and really, who doesn't like coconut shrimp? Before going vegetarian, this too, was one of my go-to staple meals. My family particularly loves this dish each summer while vacationing at the beach. I like to start by combining unsweetened coconut flakes with panko breadcrumbs and a little bit of corn starch. Dip each jumbo shrimp in a bowl of egg whites, next into the crumb mixture and then bake them in the oven until golden brown. Serve the shrimp with your favorite sweet dipping sauce if desired. This non-fried version will satisfy all of your guests, without even knowing they are eating healthy! A win win for all!
7. Crinkle Cut French Faux Fries
Similar to sweet potato fries, most restaurant served French fries can really do a number on your health and waist line. Did you know that even one small pack of French fries can cost you as much as 300 calories and 15 grams of fat? Unhealthy fat that is. While they might be tasty, the damage that they do inside of your body just isn't worth it. Use a crinkle cutter and chop a few white potatoes into crinkle cut fries. Next, toss them in a small amount of your favorite oil, dust them with a little bit of salt, pepper, and spices and toss them in the oven until perfectly crisp. It's not that you have to give up French fries forever, just make them the healthier way. Kids love these fries too!
As you can see, you don't have to shun away your favorite fried foods forever; you just have to be creative in finding ways to make them healthier. This will not only help out your health, but also your family's too! There is nothing to not like about these faux fried varieties! What is your favorite fried food? What could you do to make it healthier?