The salty flavor, the crunch, the fat. There’s really nothing like biting into a piece of fried chicken, or fried mozzarella, or fried… anything really. The satisfaction of digging into a big greasy plate of fries is real, but so is the sluggish feeling that comes after.
So why the food coma after a plate of chicken fingers? Freshly’s head nutritionist Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS tells us, “Fried foods are hyper-palatable. The combination of fat, salt, and carbohydrates activates the reward center of the brain. This can bypass our feeling of fullness and lead to overeating.”
The high amount of fat in fried foods also requires more energy for your body to digest overall. That leaves you with less energy to work, knit a sweater, or Marie Kondo your spare bedroom—whatever sparks joy.
We rounded up a few alternative frying techniques our chefs use to keep the crisp and flavor of fried foods, without the extra fat and carbs that leave us ready for a long winter’s nap.
Choose your breading wisely
The alternative technique: Using Freshly's go-to stealth health approach, our chefs swap refined flour or breadcrumbs for a more nutrient dense alternative, like almond meal or 100% cassava flour.
What you lose: Fried foods are typically dredged in milk or egg, and then coated with refined wheat flour, seasonings, and sometimes even artificial flavor enhancers. By cutting those out, you’re eliminating processed ingredients that can be difficult for your body to digest, according to Scheller.
What you gain: Refined flours are processed in a way that removes key nutrients. Instead, we like to use in dishes like our Homestyle Chicken. Almonds pack nutrients like fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E, which can boost your immune and digestive systems—while still giving you that satisfying coating.
Try Oven Frying
The alternative technique: Ditch the messy pan of oil for a baker’s sheet in the oven.
What you lose: “Deep frying uses higher temperatures than some other forms of cooking, which can promote the formation of compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products,” according to Scheller. If AGEs sound ominous to you, you’re onto something: High levels have been linked to increased risk inflammation and cardiovascular disease in some studies.
What you gain: By oven frying (like we do in our Sicilian-Style Chicken Parm), you get to keep the crisp-factor and the flavor of your traditionally fried foods. You’ll also eliminate some of the potentially negative impacts of high-heat cooking.
Pay attention to your oil
The alternative technique: Choose a high quality, heat stable oil, like a non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil or olive oil over the more highly processed vegetable oils that are often used in frying.
What you lose: Potential inflammation. Here's the deal: Different oils have different breakdowns of fats—“good” ones and “bad” ones, according to Scheller. Consuming high amounts of unhealthy (bad) fats found in low quality vegetable oils such as corn and soybean and other chemically extracted oils, like canola oil (also found in ultra-processed, packaged foods) can contribute to increased levels of inflammation. In the short run, inflammation can lead to swelling or pain, but in the long run, may lead to higher risk for disease.
What you gain: Depends on which oil you pick: Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats (the good kind!) and may help improve heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic. High-quality expeller pressed canola oil has a higher amount of omega 3 fatty acids, which are extremely important to support the brain, heart, digestion, skin, and more.