Last week I saw an ad on television for a fast food chain’s new popcorn chicken and sweet potato fries. At first I was pleased that the restaurant chain was offering some healthier options, but then I started wondering if sweet potato fries were really that much better than regular French fries. (The TV ad, by the way, was not claiming that the sweet potato fries were a healthy option. The ad was simply showing them with the chicken.) It seems like sweet potato fries should be healthier, but what are the facts?
One medium serving of sweet potato fries at Burger King has 390 calories, 21 grams fat, 48 grams carbohydrate, and 720 milligrams of sodium. A medium serving of regular French fries at Burger King has 410 calories, 18 grams fat, 58 grams of carbohydrate, and 570 milligrams of sodium. So, if you order the sweet potato fries, you get 20 fewer calories and 10 grams fewer carbs, but 3 grams more fat and 150 milligrams more sodium. Bottom line: not much difference between the two because both are fried in oil and lightly salted.
Instead of fast food sweet potato fries, frozen sweet potato fries are a healthier option. A 3-ounce serving of Alexia Sweet Potato Julienne Fries (about 12 pieces) has 140 calories, 5 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, and 6 milligrams of sodium.
But what about vitamin A? We know that sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, but does that translate to the fries? I was not able to find any information about the vitamin A content of Burger King sweet potato fries, but I did find some labels for frozen sweet potato fries. A 3-ounce serving of Alexia Sweet Potato Julienne Fries provides approximately 60 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A or 1,399 IU. (The recommended amount for adult women is 2,333 IU/day.) In comparison, one baked sweet potato with skin contains 26,081 IU. Frozen French fries and baking potatoes do not contain any significant amount of vitamin A.
So, when it comes to fast food fries, other than vitamin A content, you’ll get close to the same amount of calories and other nutrients in both sweet potato fries and regular French fries. Calories, fat and sodium values will all vary, depending on the preparation methods and the type of oil used for frying.
A better bet might be to make your own sweet potato fries, and “oven-fry” or roast them instead of frying. That way you can reduce the amount of fat significantly as well as control the amount of salt. Sweet potatoes are a super-food when it comes to nutrition, particularly vitamin A, and now is their peak season. Here are some recipes for sweet potato fries:
Notes: The nutrient information used is from MyFitness Pal, manufacturer’s information, and ESHA Food Processor.