Sweet Potato Fries are Healthy, Right?
Again you did not cook dinner. Again you must decide which of the far too many chain restaurants you will go to instead of eating at home. And…you are to do this while desiring to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
After a little wait, because you at least got there before the rest of suburbia arrived, you get seated, pull out the menu, then watch a waiter walk by with a basket of regular potato fries and a basket of sweet potato fries. Both look yummy, but you remind yourself that you are eating healthy. You gaze at the beautiful orange of the sweet potato and think to yourself, “I heard sweet potatoes are healthier potatoes. It probably is fine to have sweet potato fries.” What do you do?
I was out to dinner when this very thing happened. Well not the part about deciding on having sweet potato fries instead of regular fries. For me, the key word was “fries”. I really did not need to think much further than that. Seeing the fries did get me thinking, however. “If you are going to go with fries, are sweet potatoes really the better, healthier option? They're fried. Does it matter?”
Before You Order It – Review the Nutritional Information
Curious, I bust out my iPhone and went directly to the MyFitnessPal app to look up the nutritional information for not one, but three chain restaurants in the area, Applebee's, TGI Fridays, and Red Robin. Below are snapshots showing the side-by-side comparisons between sides of french (or steak) fries and sweet potato fries for the respective restaurants. Keep the following in mind as you review the images.
- I am no nutritionist or scientist, nor do I pretend to be either. I am armed with the same information as any regular Joe and use that to make, hopefully, smart health wise decisions.
- We must assume the serving sizes at the respective restaurants are the same for both of their side dishes.
- Not knowing the size of each serving, it is hard to compare between restaurants, therefore I resisted the urge to do that.
- Focus on the number of calories, fat, sodium, and carbs because that information was consistently provided in MyFitnessPal and on the restaurant websites.
Side of french fries 440 calories, 20 grams of fat, 770 mg of sodium, and 59 grams of carbs.
Side of sweet potato fries 340 calories, 12 grams of fat, 990 mg of sodium, and 57 grams of carbs.
The number of carbs are about the same for the two fries at Applebee's. The sweet potato fries have fewer calories and fat than the french fries, but you are going to be retaining extra water with all that sodium in those sweet potato fries.
Side of french fries 290 calories, 22 grams of fat, 980 mg of sodium, and 21 grams of carbs.
Side of sweet potato fries 390 calories, 20 grams of fat, 230 mg of sodium, and 50 grams of carbs.
Surprisingly, the sweet potato fries have more calories and carbs, but fewer grams of fat than the regular (seasoned) fries at Fridays. I had to go to the TGI Fridays website to look at the nutritional information. I wanted to make sure I was not seeing things when it came to the sodium. Yowza, what a difference!! Unless you want high blood pressure and to retain water, stay away from the seasoned fries for sure.
I have not been to Red Robin in several years, but hey, it is in the area so I checked it out. I figured someone might have the bright idea to go there with friends and decide that sweet potato fries are a healthy option. Ba ha! Hold on to your seats.
Side of steak fries 371 calories, 17 grams of fat, 224 mg of sodium, and 49 grams of carbs.
Side of sweet potato fries 569 calories, 29 grams of fat, 860 mg of sodium, and 70 grams of carbs.
Like with Fridays, I verified the Red Robin nutritional information on their website because I just knew MyFitnessPal was wrong. No, MyFitnessPal was very right. Look at that, 569 calories for the sweet potato fries. I hope you weren't planning to eat anything else. Heck, there is no reason to continue. The sweet potatoes are simply out of the question at Red Robin.
Final Regular Fries or Sweet Potato Fries Assessment
- Aside from Applebee's, both types of fries are flat out fattening. The goal of a healthy lifestyle is to minimize fat. That is not going to happen, even with sweet potato fries.
- Like my personal trainer says, we need sodium for our body to function properly, but we do not need the likes of what comes on either of those of fries. If you want to avoid the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, leave both types of fries in the restaurant kitchen.
Bummer – Those Fries Looked Good – Now What?
Eating out can be challenging. Trust me, as someone who does not like to cook and who lives in the mecca of chain restaurants, I know. In a future post I will share tactics we take when dining out. For the immediate subject, here are some recommendations.
1. Ask yourself why? Ask yourself, “Why are those fries peaking my interest?” After you get past the “they look good” and “they smell so good”, assess why you really want them. Is it an emotional want? Is it a deprivation want? Understanding why you want them will help you be mindful of when and why you want certain foods. It will also help you to no longer want them.
2. Think about how you will feel long-term. In that moment, those fries may taste good, but how will you feel about them afterwards? Will you revert back to old habits? Will you remain stuck where you are? How will you feel about yourself then? Will you feel guilty? If those fries are not worth it for your long-term goal, leave them alone. I once went away and had four large cookies. I felt so guilty afterwards. I used that moment as a reminder for later. It is ok to treat yourself, but don't go crazy with it. Moderation and every now and then is the key to remaining healthy.
3. Order something equally yummy, but healthier. This requires planning in advance. Applebee's for example, offers meals for under 600 calories that are pretty good.
4. Share. If you really really must have those fries, make sure there are a few people willing to share them with you. Limit yourself to the number you eat. Think back to me and those four cookies. (lol) If someone else ordered the fries, only have one, or two, and be done with it. You will feel better because you did not deprive yourself and you showed discipline. Win-win.