french-fries

Are healthy French fries for real?

Sep. 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM ET

Burger King has announced a new addition to their French fry lineup, called “Satisfries.” By trimming 20 percent of the calories and 30 percent of the fat from regular fries, this potato makeover provides the same taste and flavor as the higher-fat regular fry, with a bit of a health boost.

This new reality-based approach to fast-food choices is a step in the right direction for consumers. Despite health recommendations to limit or skip fast food, millions of people eat in these restaurants every day. And one out of two consumers add French fries to their order. The new Satisfries can be a good choice for consumers – but only if the serving size is controlled. That is the main health advantage for those looking for fries. Supersizing because the calories and fat are lower than the standard fry is a big health negative. So is mistakenly bartering for a higher-calorie item as part of the meal because of the calorie and fat savings in the fries.

Because food selection is based primarily on taste – and not nutrient content – these fries need to taste like the originals. And Burger King spent nearly 10 years developing this product. The concept sounds simple enough: develop a different batter coating for the French fries that absorbs less oil when the potatoes are in the fryer.

Remember these are not NO-calorie fries – they are just a healthier version. A small order of Satisfries still has 270 calories and 11 grams of fat; that’s compared to 340 calories and 15 grams of fat in a small order of regular fries. A difference of 70 calories.

And the advertised 150-calorie serving size? That’s the mini-version (about 2 ounces) found in a kid’s meal.

What about the taste? Many consumers can’t tell the difference, which is good news to Burger King. To avoid any confusion, the Satisfries are crinkle-cut and look different. But will consumers continue to buy them if they cost more? These will cost 20 to 30 cents more per serving, except when part of a kid’s meal.

While no fried potato will ever be considered a nutritional powerhouse compared to a plain baked potato, this new addition to the French fry family can help consumers who are already looking for a healthier choice in a fast-food restaurant. With these and other kinds of healthier options continuing to be added to fast-food menus, consumers can choose better options for nutritional balance. Whether they do so is another question.

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