How can I give up the fried food and still be me?
January 3, 2006 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I have chosen as one of my New Year's Resolutions to cut out fried food in an effort to reduce my fat and cholesterol intake. Yeah, that's great and all, but the question is, how do I supplant that need? I'm going to have some severe heroin-like withdrawal problems.

I crave the texture and the flavor of fried foods. The way the crispy crust is swept around my mouth, scrapes across the roof and is pulverized in my molars. Licking the salt off of the inside of my cheeks.

I live in the capitol of Fried Food, USA. I love fried chicken (Popeye's AND Chicken Box AND Cane's). I love fried seafood. I love chicken fried steak, french fries, latkes, boudin balls, hush puppies, tempura, egg rolls, wings -- I would batter and deep fry pizza if I could (and serve with a scoop of garlic butter, mmmm). But, that is not exactly helping my health.

We've got issues with high cholesterol in my family. I need to not eat the fried foods. I need to fill that hole in my diet/psyche with something healthier that I will find satisfying but won't overindulge myself with ... if that makes any sense. I am open to any suggestions that may come up. Recipes, links, support groups, antidotes, anything.

Please, AskMe, help me put down the fried mozzarella sticks.
posted by kuperman to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why not try making faux-fried foods at home? I'm currently trying to lose weight and also love fried foods. However, I've found that there are some really yummy substitutes.

For example, do you crave fries? Take a potato (or sweet potato) and slice it into sticks or wedges. Preheat your oven to 400F, and spritz the potato pieces with olive oil mist (get a Misto or similar oil mister), salt, pepper & chili pepper if you're feeling adventurous. Bake until perfectly golden. Yum!

You can also make oven-fried chicken, you can sautee anything in smaller amounts of oil using broth to make up the difference, and you can find healthy versions of many recipes from anything to Chicken Piccata to General Tsao's chicken.

After a few weeks you will feel much better and you won't crave the disgusting greasyness of your former meals. Plus you'll save money from eating out. Good luck!
posted by catfood at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2006

Home made fried rice can be pretty good for you and doesn't have a lot of fat. This recipe has worked for me. You can mix it up with snow peas, broccoli, or whatever else you like / can tolerate.
posted by true at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2006

Could you try not to eat out at restaurants? (I'm guessing that you don't usually fry foods at home.) If you make your own meals, you'll be naturally restricted to the groceries on hand. It may be easier to resist the craving if you just keep the object of your craving out of your environment.
posted by footnote at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2006

For fried mozzarella sticks specifically, just melt some part skim mozzarella in the microwave. If you're in the mood, sprinkle a little garlic powder on it before you start melting. You know mozzarella sticks are all about the mozzarella. The crust is just a convenient container.
posted by leapingsheep at 11:27 AM on January 3, 2006

Whether or not you find something to fill the craving temporarily, you'll need to tough it out and make it go away in the long run -- substitutes just keep the real thing at the top of your mind!

It will pass. Be strong!
posted by o2b at 11:29 AM on January 3, 2006

Anyone who thinks you can bake sliced potatoes to make french fries really doesn't get it. I would avoid at all costs "fake" fried foods.

The problem with fake fried foods is that even when they're good (like baked chicken fingers, which are good...bake fries are not), they're still not the same. Telling someone who wants fries to eat baked fries is like telling someone who wants a doughnut to eat an apple. There's nothing wrong with apples, they're just not doughnuts, so they're not going to satisfy a doughnut craving.

Eat really good (delicious) non-fried foods, even if not necessarily healthy, at first. That way you won't feel like you're having a crappy version of what you really want. If you eat rotisserie chicken, sushi, dim-sum dumplings, burgers or things like that, they won't fill your craving for fried food, but they should at least leave you feeling satisfied so you don't feel like you've cheated yourself (and thus want to cheat).
posted by duck at 11:36 AM on January 3, 2006

o2b - if he is able to eat low-fat versions of fried foods, he'll most likely lose the taste for the greasy versions once he gets accustomed to the healthy versions.
posted by catfood at 11:36 AM on January 3, 2006

Getting away from food that you know is bad for you is like breaking any other addiction--and there will be withdrawal pains. On the up side, you will find foods that you might have overlooked before that satisfy you. And, ultimately, you'll learn to find satisfaction in other aspects of your life and minimize your reliance on food as a source of it.
posted by wheat at 11:50 AM on January 3, 2006

I second the baking instead of frying idea. This works well with breaded chicken or fish, or croquettes/patties of various types. You can still get the crunchy crust with stuff inside, but make it low-cholesterol.

You could also try smaller portions of fried food on the side of healthy foods -- a salad topped with a little fried chicken, a combo of a few pieces of tempura with sushi and vegetables.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:50 AM on January 3, 2006

From the way you describe the texture of fried foods...maybe sprinkling some chopped nuts that have been seasoned and toasted over whatever dish you're having could help achieve something like that crunchy/crispy texture with a different but still rich taste.
posted by PY at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2006

I don't think you folks understand. Cane's and Popeye's are something no Louisianian can overcome.

Kuperman, I live on the west end of I-10 (Lake Charles), and I feel your pain. I had Cane's last night.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 12:01 PM on January 3, 2006

BTW, don't listen to the guy who says baked fries aren't good. Most people don't make them right. You need to use a very hot oven and spritz the potato wedges with olive oil. Also flip them halfway through cooking.

I don't like a lot of "healthy" foods, but because I needed to lose 85 lbs, I have experimented until I found healthy versions of recipes that I absolutely love. I will not eat things that are pathetic subsitutes.

If the homemade variety doesn't appeal to you, you can always buy frozen fries to bake in an oven. Alexia is a brand available in a lot of US supermarkets (sometimes in the "natural foods" section) and are relatively low in fat, non-greasy, but scrumptious.
posted by catfood at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2006

Are you sure you wanna go cold (fried) turkey? Allowing yourself to have a reasonably sized portion of the forbidden food from time to time may actually help keep you commited to a healthier lifestyle because you're not making such a drastic change.

I agree with chickenmagazine's take on maybe looking into smaller portions, or maybe just allow yourself to have one special fried item a week. Plus, you have the added effect of that one piece being all the more satisfying. For example, I still allow myself a small piece of really good chocolate every afternoon, and i've discovered that two bites of chocolate is every bit as good as the whole bar.
posted by mochapickle at 12:04 PM on January 3, 2006

I agree that oven fries, done right, are pretty good. I use Pam and adobo con sazon, and cook them until they're crispy. Oh, no, not as good as deep-fried, but a reasonable substitute.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:17 PM on January 3, 2006

Well, my problem is, I don't effectively do "just a couple" or "just a little." I have to really cut it out of my diet as best I can to make an effective change. It's a psychological thing for me, I suppose, the same as it is for smoking. Allow me to explain:

If I quit, I'm good. HOWEVER, if I allow myself to have a cigarette and make an excuse ("Oh, it's just one" or "It's just social" or "Only when I'm drinking") it creates the opportunity to have another, and perhaps another ... dominoes to buying a pack and taking smoke breaks at the office.

This is why I have to go full-gonzo zero-fry.
posted by kuperman at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2006

BTW, I like PY's suggestion as it helps suggest a healthy alternative that isn't so much faking it (a la the baked fries, which may or may not taste good, depending on whose recipe you use) as it is replacing it with something better.
posted by kuperman at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2006

I think that mochapickle has given good advice.

Also, how about exploring new cuisines or new non-fried dishes? Vietnamese, Indian and Thai food all pack a lot of punch and flavor. Being really satisfying without being overly fried/fatty may make a difference versus less-satisfying low-cal/baked alternatives.

PS: as a former B.R. resident, I can say that another alternative is to just move out of the South. I like the fried stuff when I return home, but I don't think twice about it when I'm not around it.
posted by turbodog at 12:36 PM on January 3, 2006

The addiction you have is mental. I used to love fried food until I started associating it with being fat, out of breath, bad acne and death. That's what you need to do. Now I can't eat anything greasy and better yet, they taste like crap to me because I make so many horrible associations to them.
posted by any major dude at 12:49 PM on January 3, 2006

Cold Turkey.
It's a bitch.

Up your budget for fresh, tasty healthy alternatives. After you have been low fat for a few months the thought of it will turn you off and actually eating too much will make you ill. That doesn't mean it can't creep back into your diet, though, just that it gets a whole lot easier after a little while. Then you will see all that fried food for the unappetizing, cheap, disgusting crap that it is. In the meantime, omit all faux fried substitutes and focus on healthy stuff with lots of protein like sushi. Add in lots of fresh fruits and low fat cheeses. Keep your senses stimulated. If it leaves you hungry, remember that carbs will fill you up. A new diet like this will cost more money, at least at first when you really want to get good food to make up for losing the fats, but it will be worth it.
posted by caddis at 12:53 PM on January 3, 2006

I think what will help is going for the sensory [flavor] powerhouses like suggested by caddis and turbodog in fresh and/or exotic international (read: not Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Greek/Lebanese) cuisines. I see more trips to Whole Foods in my future.
posted by kuperman at 1:26 PM on January 3, 2006

first of all, i want to commend you for taking your health into your own hands and trying to eat better. it's tough, but you'll be glad you did it in the long run, even if eating isn't quite as much fun. there are better things to live for than delicious, crunchy fried foods.

my family also has issues with heart disease and high cholesterol. a family member died last week at age 55 due to high cholesterol, even though he never really ate fried foods and generally ate pretty well. most fried foods these days are fried in vegetable oil rather than lard, meaning that they have virtually no cholesterol. cholesterol is byproduct of animal products, so cutting down on red meat, cheese, and dairy products will really do the most for your cholesterol (in addition to exercise, of course). also, if you're not already on it, consider asking your doctor about lipitor or another cholesterol medication. hereditary cholesterol problems are really difficult to control with diet alone, and it's NOT worth the risk. heart disease can hit you hard even when you're young, and atherosclerosis isn't very reversible.

sorry that has nothing to do with helping you to avoid the mozzarella sticks. i noticed that you seemed concerned with your health in general in your post, and the cholesterol concerns hit home for me.
posted by booknerd at 1:37 PM on January 3, 2006

Try this:

Dip strips of chicken breast in mayo thinned with a whole lot of milk or water. Roll the wet strips in crushed corn flakes. Bake til golden.

You will thank me.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Cook things, not just potato wedges, in olive oil. I did the South Beach Diet last year which uses olive oil pretty liberally and my cholesterol when from borderline high to ideal in less than six months.

If you're trying to reduce your blood cholesterol, I highly recommend the South Beach Diet which was designed to improve heart health along with promoting weight loss. My cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure all dropped from high or borderline high to ideal values. Sometimes it's not the cholesterol intake that increases your blood cholesterol levels; it's having elevated blood sugar too much of the time. For some reason, the liver produces cholesterol as a reaction to elevated sugar levels. Low carb diets like South Beach correct the sugar imbalance which, in turn, corrects the cholesterol imbalance.
posted by Doohickie at 1:55 PM on January 3, 2006

South Beach (or variation) might not be a bad choice - my wife's mother (a diabetic fresh from a ketoacidosis episode) lives with us.
posted by kuperman at 2:55 PM on January 3, 2006

As long as you're going for broke, you might want to check out this site (posted on mefi here.) There's some interesting information on the cholesterol-fighting powers of flaxseed and almonds, plus lots of tasty, healthy recipes.

And if you're interested in making some kick-ass almond/flaxseed wheat bread, feel free to email me for a recipe. Once you make your own bread, you can never go back. Yum!
posted by maryh at 3:10 PM on January 3, 2006

I don't know how much this will help, since you're not planning on giving up meat...but when I stopped eating meat (and consequently stopped eating most fast and fried foods), I just started to lose my cravings for fried stuff. I wasn't as much of an addict as you appear to be, but now most greasy foods gross me out except for the rare occaisions I feel like splurging. (Cheese curds at the State Fair? Um, YES.)

Your main goal is to eat healthier, and you know part of what you need to do to accomplish that. When you start to change your diet for the better, your cravings might change as well. So, there's hope you could kick your habit.

In addition to the baked fries suggestion...baked yam sticks with spicy seasoning on them. (Cumin, chili pepper, and some other stuff I can't remember off the top of my head...) things ever.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 3:13 PM on January 3, 2006

Hmmm — successive posts by catfood, mochapickle, and MrMoonPie, all offering healthy diet tips.
Just pointin' it out...
posted by rob511 at 4:10 PM on January 3, 2006

When I've cut out types of food, I've had more success with cutting down gradually. If you cut all fried foods out cold turkey, you're going to keep thinking about what you're missing, like "I'm never, ever going to taste another mozzarella stick as long as I live!"

Instead, restrict yourself to having fried foods only once in a while. If right now you are having fried food every day, tell yourself that you'll only have it twice a week. Then after a while, cut back to once a week, then once a month. You can still look forward to the foods you like, but make it a special occasion. Having bad food once a month won't kill you, if you eat healthier the other 29 days. And after a while you won't even want it at all.
posted by clarissajoy at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2006

I would suggest that you not give up entirely on any type of food, as saying "I'll never eat chocolate again" only sets you up for failure. But I would put some distance between yourself and the food that troubles you. Try going a week w/o fried food. If that works, up it to two weeks. Once you find other foods you like, you'll miss fried food less and less. But by no eliminating it as a possibility, you won't feel imprisoned by your new anti-fried-food zeal.
posted by wheat at 10:49 AM on January 5, 2006

(and I somehow missed clarissajoy's post, which say's almost exactly the same thing as I have just said. Sorry for the redundancy. Matt, kill my last comment on this thread if you like.)
posted by wheat at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006

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