Poutine (pronounced “poo-tin” with a French-Canadian accent) is one of Canada’s most beloved dishes. Invented in Quebec in the 1950s, this pants-tightening snack consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. The fries are usually the thicker variety, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The peppery gravy (poultry-based is preferred) and cheese curds are added just before serving to prevent the fries from getting soggy. The result is a gooey mess of deliciousness, making it the late-night snack of choice for Canadian university students after a long night of enjoying $2 beer specials at the local student pub (or at least it was for me).
The popularity of poutine has led many fast-food chain restaurants across Canada to add it to their menus, and it’s even making its way south of the border. Variations from the traditional recipe are also popping up here and there, with everyone from Italians to vegans putting their own spin on it with different kinds of gravy, cheese and various toppings like meat and veggies.
As you can probably tell, the original poutine recipe is quite high in fat and calories, unfortunately rendering it not the healthiest thing to add to your diet, at least not on a regular basis. For example, a small poutine from New York Fries comes in at 710 calories, 38 g of fat (10 g saturated fat), and 990 g of sodium. Dang!
If you love poutine or want to give it a try without too much guilt, there are ways you can make it healthier. Here are a few suggestions:
Swap potatoes for yams
Yams make excellent fries, and they also contain about twice the amount of dietary fiber and potassium as regular potatoes. Dietary fiber is a an essential component of a healthy diet because it helps keep you regular, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and can even help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Bake instead of fry
Fried foods aren’t great for you, but the good news is you can bake your potatoes into crispy French-fry territory while also cutting down on fat and calories. Not sure how to do it? Here’s an excellent video that shows you how to make crispy oven fries out of regular potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Use lighter gravy
Gravy is a crucial ingredient in poutine, adding that delicious umami flavor and playing a huge role in the addictiveness of the dish. Not all gravies are created equal, however, and you have plenty of options to choose from. While traditional poutine is made with poultry-based gravy, you could easily swap it out for a lighter version or even a vegetarian or vegan gravy. If you’re making your gravy from scratch and using broth of any kind, be sure to opt for the low-sodium variety.
Here are some lighter gravy recipes to try:
- Portobello Gravy
- Jamie Oliver’s Vegan Gravy
- Whole Foods Market’s Vegan Mushroom Gravy
- Chicken Broth Gravy
Choose (and use) your cheese wisely
Traditional cheese curds may be hard to come by in your area, but if you can get your hands on them, try not to go overboard when adding them to your poutine. A little will go a long way as they melt under the hot gravy. You can also choose other types of cheese that are lighter in fat, calories and cholesterol, such as your favorite vegan cheese (I recommend Daiya brand for its meltiness). If you definitely want to stick with real cheese, you have lighter choices like feta (75 calories per ounce) and part skim mozzarella (70 calories per ounce).
Try a healthy poutine recipe
If you have no interest in coming up with your own version of guilt-free poutine or think your results might be disastrous, you can opt for tried-and-tested recipes created by people who know what they’re doing. Here are a few tasty-looking ones:
- Oven-Fry Poutine with Mushroom Gravy
- Roasted Vegetable Poutine
- Vegetarian Poutine
- Sweet Potato Poutine with Crispy Turkey Bacon, Cranberry Gravy Sauce and Fried Sage
That last one… oh my!
Even if you try just one or two of these tips for lightening up your poutine, your arteries will thank you.
Have you tried poutine before? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more nutritious tips and exclusive giveaways!