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April 14, 2008 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Which is the healthier option: french fries or potato chips?

The cafeteria at work offers a choice between generic crinkle-cut french fries and generic ruffled plain potato chips.

Which option is the lesser of two evils?

(There are healthier alternatives, like fruit and salad, but sometimes a girl just needs something salty.)
posted by kidsleepy to Food & Drink (15 answers total)
 
Depends on what you are trying to optimize for? Is it the total amount of carbohydrates consumed? Amount of fat? As Alton Brown shows, the amount of fat in a fried food can be suprisingly small if the food is cooked properly. It would be hard to tell without knowing the specifics of the two products.

You might try asking the cafeteria people if they have dietary info on the two products.
posted by mmascolino at 8:13 AM on April 14, 2008


yeah it depends what they fry them with. pork fat? canola oil? whale blubber? you need to ask them, not us.
posted by matteo at 8:20 AM on April 14, 2008


What are the serving sizes? My gut instinct is that it's probably a largish serving of fries, so you might be better off with potato chips provided it's a single serving package and not a "Big Grab" or something.
posted by robinpME at 8:22 AM on April 14, 2008


Smaller/thinner chips/fries/crisps hold less oil than fat/thick ones.
posted by fire&wings at 8:32 AM on April 14, 2008


Look on the ingredients of the potato chips--it they are just potatoes, oil, and salt then not so bad. How about the fries? Do they look like actual cut potatoes or extruded reconstituted potato flakes? If the latter, go with the chips...
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 AM on April 14, 2008


It really depends on how they are prepared. The most brain dead sort of research on ye olde internette (google first thing for calories potato chips versus french fries) gives 155 calories per ounce for chips versus about 90 for fries. I wouldn't be surprised - a lot more surface area per unit potato exposed to the deep fat fry. What they're using for frying versus what sort of oil the chips were cooked in is an issue, saturated fats and all that. But if you'd like a back of the envelope answer that forgoes further research, the fries.
posted by nanojath at 9:08 AM on April 14, 2008


It all depends on how they're cooked and the portion size, but nutritiondata.com can be useful.

Generic potato chips: 547 kcal per 100g.

McDonalds French Fries: 337 kcal per 100g.

That seems reasonable to me: potato chips have a greater surface area to absorb cooking fat.

In terms of a healthy diet overall though, worrying about the small differences between unhealthy foods is pretty pointless. I find it can be more of a displacement activity: a way of kidding yourself that you're trying to be healthy, while not having to put any real effort in.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:14 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Smaller/thinner chips/fries/crisps hold less oil than fat/thick ones.

OTOH, the surface area of a bag of chips is greater than that of a serving of chips. The middle of a french fry doesn't have any oil.
posted by smackfu at 9:20 AM on April 14, 2008


Yes, but even if fries are "healthier" pound for pound, you've got to account for portion somehow, and I still think you're more likely to get more than one serving of fries.
posted by robinpME at 9:32 AM on April 14, 2008


They're both completely empty calories. Assuming the cafeteria doesn't deep fry french fries (never been to one that did, myself) those'll be lower in fat, and the potato chips will be likely be lower in carbs per serving. The fattier, saltier chips are probably more mouthfeel satisfying with other food, while the fries, on the other hand, will be more filling if eaten alone. My perspective is that they're equivalent enough that if one is ruled into your diet in that moment, the other may as well be too. They're both gonna be "sometimes" foods, from the sound of it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:59 AM on April 14, 2008


Potatoes are in no way empty calories; you can live on nothing but potatoes for some time.

But in this specific instance both of these foods are probably fried in tons of nasty goop rendering them very bad for you. Fries can be made so they're not too bad for you but I can pretty much guarantee that your cafeteria isn't making them like that.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 AM on April 14, 2008


Well neither is particularly "healthy" but unless you're binging on them, it doesnt really matter, presuming you have a decent regular diet and exercise regimen. Or what TheophileEscargot said. Potatoes, salt and fat is just damn yummy sometimes and we all need our comfort foods. Dont dwell on it.
posted by elendil71 at 10:36 AM on April 14, 2008


Generic potato chips: 547 kcal per 100g.

McDonalds French Fries: 337 kcal per 100g.

...

Yes, but even if fries are "healthier" pound for pound, you've got to account for portion somehow, and I still think you're more likely to get more than one serving of fries.


True - even if french fries have less kcal per 100g, you don't necessarily have the choice between 100g of fries and 100g of chips. Chips are like 50-60g per bag, so if she gets 100g of fries they're basically both the same in terms of kcal.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2008


1. TheophileEscargot: worrying about the small differences between unhealthy foods is pretty pointless. I find it can be more of a displacement activity: a way of kidding yourself that you're trying to be healthy

2. elendil71 : Well neither is particularly "healthy" but unless you're binging on them, it doesnt really matter, presuming you have a decent regular diet and exercise regimen.

1 (Yin, realize your reasoning behind food choices)
+2 (Yang, exercise your reasonings)
= healthy and happy life.
posted by thetenthstory at 11:06 AM on April 14, 2008


Well, if you have to have fries (and who doesn't?), try sweet potato fries instead of the regular white potato variety. SPs are full of complex carbs and lots o Vitamin A. A little deep frying (or better yet, spray them with some oil and bake 'em) and you've got the perfect food!
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:27 AM on April 14, 2008


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