Food Fight: French Fries vs. Sweet Potato Fries

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French fries aren’t generally considered health food, but there are many options to consider. Are you baking them, frying them or getting them at the drive-thru? Is it a healthier move to order the sweet spuds when they appear on the menu? Here are the real differences between traditional french fries and those made from sweet potatoes.

French Fries

Potatoes have a bad reputation, but they’re actually filled with good-for-you nutrients, including fiber and potassium. The calorie count is also relatively low, coming in at about 170 calories for a whole potato. Armed with this knowledge, you can easily see how a sliced and roasted spud with a drizzle of olive oil can be a healthy side dish.

If you hit up the freezer section for a bag of fries, every 3-ounce portion (about 12 pieces) contains 120 calories, 5 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium — but who eats only 12? Fast-food fries can get you into even more trouble, with a medium-sized order averaging 400 calories and 17 grams of fat. Sodium levels can range from 300 to more than 1,200 milligrams, depending on how those fries are seasoned.

Sweet Potato Fries

One medium sweet potato contains slightly more calories, coming in at 183. These orange spuds are exploding with antioxidant-rich vitamin A and also contain equally hefty doses of fiber and potassium. Sweet potatoes contain about 15 grams more carbohydrates per serving, but that’s no reason to pass on these tubers; they can also make super-tasty and healthy baked fries.

The same 3-ounce serving of frozen sweet potato fries contains 140 calories, 5 grams of fat and typically less sodium than the regular fries. Sweet potato fries at a restaurant also land in the 400-calorie neighborhood, and the fat content also averages 20 grams; sodium can add up quickly.

Winner: Homemade and baked is always the way to go, and if that’s how you make your fries, mix it up with both white and sweet potatoes.

Try Ina Garten's Baked Sweet Potato Fries or Ellie Krieger's Baked Garlic 'Fries'

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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.