Ordering a side of fries over a salad is basically natural instinct for most. A pile of cold lettuce chunks just doesn’t compare to a stack of warm, crispy, salty potato slices. Still, when the server asks that inevitable question, “with fries?”, you know everything your parents ever told you about vegetables will flash through your mind and you’ll still opt for those good, good potatoes.
Besides, potatoes are technically a vegetable and vegetables are good for you, so there, Mom! But as always, Mom knew best all along, of course.
In an article recently published by The New York Times, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Eric Rimm came out strong against the favourite North American side dish, calling them “starch bombs” and suggesting that the proper portion of fries per meal is six.
SIX!? What is this, a nutritional guide for ants!?
“There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries,” Dr. Rimm told The NY Times, demonstrating the issue of portion control in America (and Canada by proxy). “I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.”
We all know that frying is the unhealthiest method of cooking, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that something with “fry” right in the name is unhealthy. But what is shocking is the recommended portion size, which isn’t coming from Rimm alone.
According to the United States Agriculture Department, the recommended portion for fries is three ounces, which works out to about about 12 fries, depending on the cut.
So why all the fuss? Is the “potato = vegetable” argument simply no good? According to Rimm, potatoes are pretty much at the bottom of the veggie pile in terms of nutrition, and when you remove the skin and deep fry them, they go from “OK for you” to “how badly do you want to see your 70s?”
A study published last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week were at “an increased risk of mortality” when compared to those who ate un-fried potatoes.
So, baked fries?
Actually, baking potatoes at home with just a little oil and the skins may be the most healthy way to get your fry fix, but the bottom line is that potatoes should never replace greens.