Smart fries: What does that mean? They’re smart? They make you smart? Or they’re a smart option? Gourmet Basics Honey BBQ Smart Fries are grabbing attention as a natural, low-fat version of the popular potato treat. The package even says "natural," "healthy," "low-fat" and "smart." With four words like that, they may have earned themselves a spot in your healthy pantry. Is it possible that this air-popped variety of the burger’s favorite sidekick is a healthier alternative to traditional greasy french fries at only 110 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving? Or are fries in any form doomed to a calorie- and fat-laden life? Let’s take a look and see if these fries are all they claim to be or if they really are Too Good to Be Food.
What’s in it?
POTATO STICKS (POTATO FLOUR, POTATO STARCH, SALT), HONEY BBQ (SUGAR, BROWN SUGAR, SALT, DEXTROSE, TORULA YEAST, ONION, SPICES, TOMATO POWDER, HONEY POWDER, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA, GARLIC, FRUCTOSE, CITRIC ACID, HICKORY SMOKE, SOYBEAN OIL), CANOLA OIL
● Potato flour: The entire potato, skin, pulp, and all, is mashed to create an end product, which maintains some of the fiber and protein of the original potato. It provides plenty of potato taste and is the predominant source of calories.
● Potato starch: Like cornstarch, potato starch is a thickener derived from... yup, you guessed it, potatoes!
● Salt: We know to tread lightly here as most packaged foods are loaded with salt, but one serving of these fries has only 270 milligrams of sodium.
● Sugar: Do you add sugar to your potatoes at home? Sweet stuff, what are you doing here?
● Brown sugar: You know the drill... sugar is sugar. Brown sugar is either an unrefined or partially refined sugar produced by the addition of molasses — which gives it the brown color. Although brown sugar is slightly lower in calories, the difference is negligible and like I said — sugar is sugar!
● Dextrose: Just another sugar-coated sugar! Dextrose is a sweet, easily digested simple sugar made from cornstarch. While safe, it’s still more added sugar.
● Torula yeast: Form of yeast used to enhance flavor. Often used in place of MSG as a flavor enhancer in "all-natural" products and hasn’t been linked to the same concerns with MSG.
● Onion: We all know what this layered root vegetable is but did you know that it’s also packed with antioxidants? Allicin is an antioxidant that works as an antibiotic and may help reduce stomach and colon cancer risk.
● Tomato powder: Exactly what it sounds like. The dried, powdered version of a tomato! It is often used as a flavor-enhancer. Similar to tomatoes, tomato powder is rich in lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
● Honey powder: Dehydrated honey. No matter what you call it, it’s just another form of sugar.
● Oleoresin paprika: Used as a natural food coloring to get that deep crimson color. Better than one of the synthetic dyes!
● Garlic: Unless you’re a vampire, stay close to garlic! It is often found in packaged goods because of its preservative properties and its antimicrobial compound (allicin) which helps fight infection and bacteria.
● Fructose: Again, just sugar. When consumed excessively in the added form, it has been linked to higher rates of obesity and heart disease.
● Citric acid: Works as a natural preservative and popular flavor-enhancer in many packaged foods and beverages.
● Hickory smoke: A quick FYI on this... The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) panel on flavorings has revealed that several concentrated smoke flavorings may pose health risks in humans. Although the small amount found in this packaged food is probably not of concern, I’d rather avoid!
● Soybean oil: Oil that is extracted from soybeans to add moisture to a product and improve mouthfeel. It is a good source of omega-3s.
● Canola oil: Canola oil helps give foods that yummy, rich flavor without the saturated fat found in butter. This oil has the highest levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any cooking oil — score! The monounsaturated fats and omega-3s found in canola oil are associated with healthy cholesterol and overall heart health. You may have heard that most canola oil comes from genetically modified canola crops. If you want to avoid GMO foods, look for non-GMO or USDA Organic labels.
So, what’s the verdict? It’s not Too Good to Be Food. While I wouldn’t necessarily call them "smart," if you’re choosing these over the deep-fried version every now and then, it’s OK. But don’t make a habit of it! While these fries are lower in calories, fat, and sugar (even with all those sugar sources!), they don’t contribute much nutritional value. Whole and fresh potatoes are packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals that these fries lack even though they’re "made from potatoes” "You’re better off baking your own freshly sliced potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh garlic. Now that’s a smart potato!
Serving Size 1oz (28g)
Total Fat: 2g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Trans Fat: 0g
Total Carbohydrates: 23g
Dietary Fiber: Less Than 1g