Love fried food? Try these healthier, flavorful swaps from Joy Bauer

If you're ready to embrace healthy eating habits in the new year, saying farewell to fried food is a great place to start. But you don’t have to give up on taste.

These simple ingredient swaps provide the same delicious flavors without wreaking havoc on your waistline. Here’s to a tasty 2018!

Meet the brother and sister who lost a combined 150 pounds together

    Swap mozzarella sticks for part-skim string cheese dipped in warm marinara sauce.

    Nutritionist Joy Bauer shows healthy swaps for fried foods.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

    Ooey-gooey mozzarella sticks are hard to resist, but when you  break down the ingredients, this dish is  essentially full-fat cheese dipped in refined breadcrumbs ... all fried in oil. Just four pieces  from a restaurant portion contains up to  420 calories — and that’s before you even start on your main meal. Instead, enjoy this slimmed-down version: Just dip part-skim string cheese into warmed-up marinara sauce and watch as the cheese turns melty and delicious. So easy right?

    Swap french fries for roasted jicama fries.

    Crispy jicama fries are a healthier alternative to regular potato french fries.Joy Bauer

    Golden-brown, fried potatoes are irresistible. Unfortunately, the typical large order of fries at your favorite fast-food joint packs in about 500 calories. I’ve slimmed down this scrumptious side by creating tasty, oven-baked jicama “fries.” They're packed with flavor and nutrition, and you can eat a hearty 2-cup portion for only 140 calories. Get the recipe.


    Servings: 6

    Say goodbye to bags of freezer-burned tater tots. My homemade version is so easy and delish. By replacing the potato with broccoli, I’ve cut back on carbs and calories without sacrificing texture and flavor. This skinny spin will set you back only 100 calories (per 5). Go ahead and serve up this crispy, crunchy side dish. I guarantee the kids will ask for seconds. 


      • 4 cups broccoli florets
      • ½ cup diced yellow onion
      • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
      • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (preferably whole grain)
      • 2/3 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
      • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper and set aside.

    2. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute then remove and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well (I typically use a paper towel to dry them).

    3. Chop the broccoli finely and mix thoroughly with the egg, onions, cheddar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs last – and combine everything. Place in fridge for about 15 minutes to firm up the mixture a bit (this will make it easier to work with). Using your hands, scoop up small portions of the mixture (about 1-2 tablespoons), form into tater tot shapes and place them on the baking sheet.

    4. Mist the tops with oil spray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip them over, mist tops, and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the outsides are golden brown and crispy. 

    Related video

    French toast with only 340 calories? It's junk food to Joy food!

    Swap fried fish tacos for grilled fish tacos.

    Nutritionist Joy Bauer shows healthy swaps for fried foods.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

    An order of two fried fish tacos topped with a flavorful cream sauce at your favorite Mexican hotspot will typically clock in at more than 1,000 calories. Instead, swap fried fish for grilled and you’ll practically slash the calories in half. Bonus points for requesting extra veggies and putting the sauce on the side. Squeeze on some fresh lemon or lime juice for an extra pop of flavor. If you’d like to try a recipe at home, here’s one of my faves.

    Swap breaded Italian classics for lighter renditions.

    A plate of chicken or eggplant parmesan at a restaurant can easily top 1,000 calories. Want a simple trick to slash major calories, fat, carbs and salt? When dining out, just request grilled, un-breaded chicken or roasted, un-breaded eggplant as the base.

    Making it at home? Try this version of chicken parm or this dish instead of traditional eggplant parm.

    Joy Bauer shares healthier versions of Buffalo chicken dip and cinnamon doughnuts

    More Food Tips videos

    Swap fried Chinese dishes for sautéed alternatives. ​

    Next time you're craving Chinese food, skip the General Tso's Chicken with an egg roll and fried rice. This heavy meal will cost you about 1,800 calories — more than many people need in an entire day (yikes!). Instead, enjoy an order of egg drop soup, chicken and broccoli, and steamed brown rice. You’ll trim off 1,000 calories and leave the table feeling oh-so-much-better! Can’t stomach the thought of giving up General Tso’s Chicken? Try my lightened up version!

    Lucy Schaeffer Photography

    Cook time: 30 minutes

    Prep time: 10 minutes

    Servings: 4

    Whip up my slim-style version of this Chinese takeout dish and dig in without any regret or guilt!

    RELATED: Slim down with Joy's #startTODAY meal plan

    RELATED: Keep your diet on track with Joy's daily cleanse tip


    • Marinated Chicken

      • 1 egg white
      • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
      • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
      • 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
    • Sauce

      • 3/4 cup 100 percent no-sugar added pineapple juice
      • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
      • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
      • 3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
      • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
      • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
      • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot flour (see note)
      • 6 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
      • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)


    For the Marinated Chicken:

    In a medium bowl, add the egg white, soy sauce and rice wine. Whisk to combine.

    Add the chicken and stir so the marinade evenly coats each piece. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or place in zip-top bag) and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

    For the Sauce:

    In a small pan, heat the pineapple juice over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the juice until it reduces to about ¼ cup and has thickened, about 7 minutes.

    Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.

    After the pan and juice are completely cooled, mix in the soy sauce, rice wine, chicken broth, sesame oil, garlic powder, ginger, red pepper flakes and cornstarch. (If the pineapple juice is still hot, the cornstarch may clump.) Whisk together so the cornstarch is fully incorporated. Set aside.

    Spray a large skillet with nonstick oil spray. Pour the chicken and leftover marinade into the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the chicken pieces are done, about 7 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid. Pour the prepared sauce into the skillet with chicken and sauté for a few minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.

    Serve immediately, garnished with the scallions and sesame seeds, if desired.

    Want Joy to make over your favorite fattening dish? Challenge her via TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

    For healthy tips and recipes, follow Joy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and check out her cookbook From Junk Food to Joy Food.​