Although french fries are often a favorite food choice in the U.S. and do provide some beneficial nutrients, they are high in sodium and may contain high amounts of trans fats. You can reap the nutritional benefits of french fries without the sodium and unhealthy fats by choosing potatoes instead.
Because french fries are fried in oil, they are generally high-calorie foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference reports that 20 frozen french fries contain 164 calories. The USDA also notes that a medium order of fast-food french fries contains 365 calories. In comparison, one small baked potato contains just 130 calories.
Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
While french fries do contain some protein, they mainly consist of carbohydrates and fat. The USDA reports that 20 frozen french fries contain about 28 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein -- while a medium order of fast-food fries provides 48 grams of carbs, 17 grams of fat and 4 grams of dietary protein. In comparison, a small baked potato contains 29 grams of carbs, 3 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of dietary fat.
Sodium and Trans Fat
Some varieties of french fries contain trans fat and most contain sodium -- both increase your heart-disease risk when consumed in excess. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest limiting dietary trans fat as much as possible and sodium to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day. When buying frozen french fries, check the nutrition facts labels to determine sodium and trans fat content. Fast-food chains generally list nutrition information on menus or food chain websites. Baked potatoes are free from trans fat and contain almost no sodium. Try baking your own french fries using strips of potatoes seasoned with herbs or spices instead of salt.
Since french fries, even fast-food french fries, are made from potatoes, they do contain some beneficial vitamins and minerals. French fries are a source of dietary potassium, phosphorus, niacin and folate. However, eating a baked potato instead provides you with greater amounts of these essential micronutrients -- without the extra calories, sodium and trans fat.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, French Fried, All Types, Salt Added in Processing, Frozen, Home-Prepared, Oven Heated
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Fast Foods, Potato, French Fried in Vegetable Oil
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, White, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010