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Dr Zac Turner delves into the world of air fryers – are they really healthy and what’s the best thing to cook in them to lose weight?


Hi Dr. Zac, I’ve recently broken up with my girlfriend and embarrassingly she was the one who kept my diet in check. Now that I’m living alone I’ve become lazy and bought an airfryer. Are they really healthier than a normal deep-fryer? Isn’t it still fried food? I’m finding myself making excuses and cooking junk food in it thinking it’s healthier because it’s ‘air fried’. Food is becoming a comfort for me and I want that to stop.

What are some ways I can implement healthier eating into my diet? Can you recommend any type of dieting regime to lose all the fat I’ve put on over winter? Mark, 26, Brisbane


Hi Mark, thanks for your question. I’ll get to the air fryer issue in a moment, but in the meantime understand you’re not the first person in the world to let their partner ‘take the helm’ of their diet. Now that you’re no longer together, rather than texting her in desperation for ideas on what to cook, look up some nutritious cooking tutorials on YouTube and have a glass of water. You’ll feel much better, trust me!

Air fryers are all the rage right now, especially since everyone currently has a doomsday amount of frozen food kept in their second chest freezer. They’re affordable, portable and a great cook – even if you aren’t. I have nothing against air fryers, I just don’t like how people misuse them.

Air fryers can be a healthy alternative to deep frying, unless you load them up with crap! Yes, air fryers do use less oil and cut calories, but if you are still frying processed, frozen food, you are running the risk of not having a nutritional meal.

When air frying, there are many variables at play. When you deep fry food it increases the fat content because it is being cooked in oil which has a high amount of fat. Air frying uses about fifty times less oil than deep-frying, making many of your favourite fried foods ‘guilt-free’.

Here’s the catch – many of your favourite fried foods are already unhealthy to begin with. I’m not saying cut this food out of your life entirely, but make it a treat – not a staple.

That means chicken nuggets and potato gems for dinner are not healthy just because they’ve air fried. You are still eating preservatives, high levels of sodium and a meal lacking in important vitamins and minerals. Try putting some veggies in there and sprinkle a dash of seasoning afterwards.

My recommendation is to air fry broccolini, and once it’s done, throw on some lemon juice and chilli flakes. Now you’ve got yourself something delicious and nutritious – and you didn’t have to phone up the ex for the recipe!

I’m just as guilty for loving comfort food every now and then. A major problem with unhealthy food that comforts us is the convenience of it. A cheeseburger will take five minutes from ordering to eating it (and then regretting it) whereas a healthy, nutritious, home cooked meal could take up to an hour.

Here’s a starting point, yes enjoy your air fried frozen food every now and then but also have frozen veggies with it too. Build a habit of having a balanced plate.

You need to understand eating your feelings is a short term buffer and you will never successfully get to the root of your distraught from the break-up. I recommend that if you decide to eat comforting food, drink some water and go for a walk.

Build up a list of habits that benefit you mentally and physically. It takes two to tango when it comes to both physical and mental health. No amount of exercise makes up for poor diet choices.

My advice is to not throw out the air fryer. You should mould your habits around it. Firstly, when you go shopping, try to avoid the frozen food aisle. And if you do pick up a piece of junk, pick up three pieces of fresh food at the same time. Bargain with yourself and stay strict. Making a shopping list is a timeless piece of advice to stop yourself buying things you don’t need.

Here’s another tip from my friends who have mastered the art of air frying: it’s all about food prep. They’ll prepare a whole week’s worth of meals on a Sunday and freeze them. When they want one portion they’ll wack it in the air fryer. This is a great way around buying fresh food and not letting it go bad. Another great thing about food prep is that it controls portion size. Often we eat too much to comfort ourselves and this stops that.

Mark, I applaud you for reaching out. Summer is coming up and you want to look and feel your best. Keep your air fryer but up your kitchen game. I recommend that rather than working on yourself to impress others, do it for yourself so you feel great. Healthy eating and being able to cook nutritious, yummy food is a brilliant start.