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Prairie Fare: Choose Your Fats and Oils Wisely

While an occasional “fried food festival” will not negatively affect your health, too much fried food is not so great for your waist or, potentially, your arteries.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Fried food festival,” read the text message from my husband.

I knew exactly what was happening at home while I was at a conference last week. My family was enjoying fried shrimp, clams, chicken and french fries. When Mom is away, the deep fat fryer comes out of storage.

When I arrived back at the airport, the first thing my family talked about was how great their “festival” had been.

“The kids loved it. She licked her plate clean,” my husband said as he grinned at our 7 -year-old daughter.

“Dad didn’t even have to do dishes when you were gone!” she added with a smirk.

I think they were trying to convince me that nutrition, manners and sanitation went out the window as soon as my plane departed.

“If you have the oil at the right temperature, the food doesn’t absorb very much fat,” he noted as he described recovering most of the oil back in the container after it cooled.

He was right about his frying technique. I’m glad they had a fun time while I was out of town.

We need some fat in our diets but not too much. While an occasional “fried food festival” will not negatively affect your health, too much fried food is not so great for your waist or, potentially, your arteries.

Fats play several roles in foods. Fats contribute flavor in meats and other foods and provide a creamy texture in foods such as ice cream. They contribute to a crisp texture in fried foods.

When we eat fat-containing foods, we feel more satisfied because fats are not digested as quickly as some other foods. Fats help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is used by our body to maintain the function of our membranes and to make hormonelike compounds that regulate body processes.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we get 25 to 35 percent of our daily calories from fat. For people eating 2,000 calories per day, that amounts to about 65 grams of fat, or 2.2 ounces.

Most people are aware that fats are not created equal based on their role in health. Saturated fat and trans fat should be limited in the diet. On a 2,000-calorie diet, AHA recommends that no more than 7 percent (16 grams) of our total daily calories should be from saturated fats. No more than 2 grams of our daily fat intake should be from trans fats.

Nutrition Facts labels can help you sort out the information about fats. Pick up a food package and check it out. Most nutrition labels list the amounts of fat, saturated fat and trans fat in a serving of the food. The percent of the daily recommendation (percent daily value) is listed for total fat and saturated fat. For example, if your food choice has 50 percent of the daily recommendation for saturated fat, you may want to think carefully about your options for the rest of the day.

Nutrition experts recommend that we choose monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats more often. Common food sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, corn, safflower and soybean oils. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, as well as flaxseed and walnuts.

Keep in mind, though, that a tablespoon of oil contains about 120 calories. Therefore, even the healthiest fats need to be consumed in moderation.

Here’s a lower-calorie, higher-fiber baked version of fries. For a colorful change, try this recipe with sweet potatoes or another root vegetable. Perhaps if I prominently place this tasty recipe in view of my family, maybe the deep fryer will stay in storage next time I have a conference.

Oven Fries

4 medium potatoes*

1 Tbsp. oil (such as canola or sunflower)

Paprika or spice of choice (optional)

Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Wash potatoes, but don’t peel. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Blot dry with paper towels. Toss potatoes with oil in a bowl until coated. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Spread on baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Toss with Parmesan cheese (optional).

(*) Try sweet potatoes for a change of pace.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 195 calories, 36 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 3.5 g of fat, 3.5 g of fiber and 110 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Jan. 20, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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