Deep fat frying potatoes in vegetable oil would be cholesterol free. Cholesterol is only found in animal products. (Tip to help remember this is everything that contains cholesterol has a mother!) Vegetable oil can be Canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower or cottonseed.
There are some new developments in assessing vegetable oils. While vegetable oil is liquid at room temperature, margarine and shortening made from vegetable oils are in a solid form. In order to make a vegetable oil solid, it has to be partially hydrogenated (another way of saying make it more saturated with hydrogen). The problem is the structure of the oil’s chemical chain changes shape from a cis to a trans fatty acid during hydrogenation.
Research has found that trans fatty acids increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL (good cholesterol). Saturated fats (hydrogenated) are the primary factor that increases bad cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol content in food is becoming less of a factor in determining how much cholesterol ends up in your blood. If you quit using stick margarine and solid shortening, the effect of the trans fatty acids on cholesterol will leave after 6 months according to Dr. Kritchevsky. By the way, the new food label does list saturated fats but does not list trans fatty acid content (partially saturated).
If the fast food restaurant uses a solid shortening to fry the potatoes, then you are getting trans fatty acids, which may increase your cholesterol. Ask the restaurant if they use oil or shortening. However, since fast food restaurants switched to frying potatoes in solid vegetable shortening, the rate of heart disease has not gone up, it has gone down mostly due to people decreasing the fat (especially saturated) content of their diets. So trans fatty acids don’t seem to increase heart disease.
As to whether French fries are healthy, well they are high in fat and a plain baked potato isn’t. As to a whole meal, what else would you eat? You can make healthy food choices even at a fast food restaurant.