Air fryers have been getting a LOT of attention of late. Pinterest searches from Australians for recipes for this humble kitchen appliance top the list, increasing 1.7 times since April. But are they actually a healthier way of cooking your food? Dietitian Melissa Meier weighs in.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know *the* hottest kitchen gadget of 2020 is the air fryer. With swarms of people on the internet swearing by everything that comes out of their much-loved kitchen appliance, you might be considering making the investment yourself. But are they actually worth it, health-wise? Here’s your dietitian-approved answer.
Air fryer basics
Air fryers are much-loved for the crispy finish they can give to foods. In contrast to the copious amounts of oil used in traditional deep-frying, air-frying calls for little (if any) oil, and instead relies on stacks of circulating hot air, hence, its reputation as a healthier way to cook. Plus, air fryers offer convenience in spades, as they heat up and cook food much quicker than a standard kitchen oven.
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Are air fryers actually healthy?
I must admit, when the air fryer trend kicked off, I contemplated buying myself one. As a self-confessed hot chip connoisseur, I was intrigued by the idea of getting the taste and texture of traditional deep fried food for a fraction of the calorie and fat content. Who wouldn’t want that on their mid-week dinner table?!
The more I looked into it, the more I realised you can make almost anything in the air fryer, from sweet potato chips, crispy cauliflower and fillets of fish to chicken schnitzel, onion rings and doughnuts… And then it hit me: while some people have adopted the air fryer as a way to make healthy eating easier, others are using air fryers just for their convenience – with no intention of healthy eating whatsoever.
A quick Google search will give you a whopping 52 million air fryer recipes (no, that was not a typo). Sure, some of them incorporate fresh seafood, lean proteins, lots of veg and minimal oil, sugar and salt, which ticks a lot of my dietitian boxes. But there’s also a whole bunch of recipes I wouldn’t exactly class as ‘healthy’, from pork knuckles and sausage rolls to scones, doughnuts and even chocolate biscuits stuffed in puff pastry for goodness sake!
The verdict on air fryers
The answer to the question you’ve all come here for (‘is air frying actually healthy?’) isn’t the resounding ‘yes’ you might’ve initially thought. Sure, if you’re cooking vegetables and lean protein you’ve got a healthy meal on your hands, so kudos to you.
But if you’re using your air fryer to whip up treats all day long, I’ve got some bad news. You see, a brownie is still a brownie, regardless of how it’s cooked. My suggestion is to simply exercise a little common sense with your air fryer if good health is on your radar – veg, wholegrains and lean proteins are good-for-you everyday foods that can form the basis of a healthy meal, while chocolate, pastry and butter are not. Capiche?
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her at Honest Nutrition or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.