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

Nutritionist Joy Bauer shares easy ways to crush cravings for fried food with smart swaps for healthier mozzarella sticks, fries and more.
/ Source: TODAY

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!

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.

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.

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!

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