Monday, 30 April 2012

Foods that Make you Fat: Battered or Breaded Fish and Chicken

Scotland is notorius for battering and deep frying just about anything you can think of.  Chippys around Paisley sell deep fried pizza and macaroni and cheese pie.  And it's really true what they say about the Mars bars.  Everyone knows these things are unhealthy and fattening.

In contrast, few people think that way about the battered or breaded fish fingers, fish fillets, chicken burgers and chicken nuggets they buy from the supermarket frozen food section.  They're packaged to look healthy with labels highlighting 'omega 3' or 'made with 100% chicken breast'.  But let's take a closer look. 

Most people would serve Birdseye 100% Fillet Fish Fingers in Crispy Batter as the protein element of a meal.  But in terms of macronutrients, they're closer to bread and butter.  According to the nutritional information 100 grams of fish fingers contains 21.7 grams of carbohydrate, 14.5 grams of fat and only 9.3 grams of protein.

Compare that to 100 grams of Atlantic Pollock which contains zero carbohydrate, a single gram of fat and 25 grams of protein.  It's not surprising that 100 grams of fish fingers have 264 kcal whereas the real fish has 118. 

The serving size given on the packet is three fish fingers (84 grams), but you'd have to eat seven of them to get as much protein as an 84 gram fish fillet.  That's 513 calories versus 100 calories!   Even if you fry your Pollock fillet in a tablespoon (15g) of butter it only comes to 202 calories.

So why buy fish fingers?

  • Convenience?  You can simply wrap a fish fillet in foil with some butter and bake it in the same time it takes to oven bake the frozen fish fingers.
  • Price?  A quick online price check reveals that Sainsbury's sells a 300g pack of Pollock fillets for £1.50.  That makes them 50p per 100g.  Tesco's price for Birds Eye Fish Fingers in Crispy Batter (224g)  is £1.45.  That makes them 65p per 100g.  Keep in mind that they only contain 49% fish so you're mainly paying for flour and oil.
  • Taste and texture?  Well, I have to admit, it's nice to bite into a crispy coating, but fish fingers are pretty bland.  That's why people cover them in ketchup or mayonnaise.  When you cook fish from scratch you can add all sorts of herbs and spices to enhance the flavour.

I could go through other frozen breaded and battered products and do a similar comparison with fresh meat and fish, but you get the idea.  If you eat these products on a regular basis and you want to lose weight, try making the switch to unprocessed alternatives cooked from scratch. 

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