How your diet takes a battering down the chip shop

Can I have the blandest item on the menu please…

Traditional British cooking is often criticised by ‘foreigners’ as plain, tasteless and downright boring. What’s more, in the age of health consciousness, many of our more traditional dishes, loaded with fat, salt and saturated fat, could well be slung on to my worst food pile. Woe is me!

Personally, I have a deep appreciation for more traditional fare. In the famous words of Douglas Sutherland in the The English Gentleman ‘Gentlemen do not like food that has been "messed around with". Continental cookery gives them diarrhoea.’ Quite right.

In the winter, give me stodgy stews and spuds. On a Sunday give me the works; roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and the obligatory two veg. and gravy. I’ll even have trifle for afters. For tea I want mountains of egg and cress sandwiches with the crusts cut off, preferably accompanied by a freshly made scone or two with clotted cream and jam.

Hell, I even like porridge for breakfast (but with lots of sugar and not half as much as I like a great big fry up!). But the one British food I like more than anything in the world is fish and chips on a Friday night, loaded with salt and vinegar, of course.

So. what’s the best thing about chip shop fish and chips? The portions. They’re biG, bIG, BIG! Unfortunately, that is where your diet and mine may begin to flounder. A large portion of deep-fried battered cod adds 448 calories, 23 grams of fat, and two grams of saturated fat to your daily total. That’s if it is cooked in vegetable oil.

Go for the more traditional way of cooking - fish cooked in dripping bumps up that saturated fat to a whopping 11 grams. What about those steamy, hot, fat, tasty chips (I’m drooling!)? Another 397 calories to add to your total, 14 grams of fat and 1 gram of saturated fat. Not bad on the saturated fat but if your favourite chippie cooks them in dripping, the saturated fat jumps to 8 grams.

Fortunately, or not so fortunately, I am on first name terms with my local chip shop owner and he says I am safe enough on the saturated fat. Phew! Unfortunately, I love my salt and since every teaspoonful gives me 2,000 milligrams of sodium, that’s a third of what I am recommended to have per day. Is there no end to my misery?!

So I asked our nutrition team to help me come up with a healthier alternative. Here’s what they suggested. I should make my own fish and chips. Why didn’t I think of that? They promised not to skimp on the portions and here is the recipe they came up with…

Take one large potato and cut into 8 potato wedges. Boil for 10 minutes. Pour a teaspoon of vegetable oil into a large baking tray and toss each potato wedge in the oil. Place the potato wedges at on end of the tray. You will be cooking the fish in the same tray.

Take 7 oz or 200 grams of fresh cod, beat an egg (or just the egg white of you are concerned about your saturated fat intake) and grate some bread (one slice) to make breadcrumbs (otherwise use an oz or 28 grams of ready made). Coat the fish in the beaten egg and then cover it in breadcrumbs. Lightly grease the free part of the baking tray with vegetable oil and add the coated fish.

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 200 C, 400 F, Gas Mark 6, turning the fish and chips once during cooking until both sides are golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges.

This healthy version will give you just 310 calories and 7 grams of fat in the fish and 210 calories and 5 grams of fat in your chips. Your total is a reasonable 520 calories and 12 grams of fat. That’s 325 calories less than the same portions from the chip shop and a massive saving of 25 grams of fat.

Jamie Oliver, eat your heart out. I’m off to the kitchen to make my Friday night treat. It’s Thursday afternoon? Who’s counting…

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