Everyone in Windsor wants a piece of the paczki

"I think that healthy eating is all about balance," said Andrea Docherty, a registered dietitian in Windsor. "I don't recommend you have it and then feel guilty about it."

Expert says even though one paczki has about 25 grams of fat, it's okay to go for it

A tower of iconic white and red paczki boxes at Blak's Bakery in 2018. (Colin Cote-Paulette/CBC)

Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday ... whatever you call it, there are boxes of paczki on the tables in many office lunchrooms in Windsor and Detroit.

For some, the idea of taking in that many calories — about 450 calories and 25 grams of fat — is overwhelming. But the doughnut-like pastries are a tradition in this region.

And one nutritionist told Windsor Morning it's okay to have the Polish treat.

"I think that healthy eating is all about balance," said Andrea Docherty, a registered dietitian in Windsor. "I don't recommend you have it and then feel guilty about it."

"Eat it, enjoy it and then move on," said Docherty, who said we're generally made to feel there's good and bad foods — and to feel bad when you indulge in something not so good. 

Doing something different with the dough

At Tony Blak's Union Bakery, he made 500 dozen of a different kind of paczki — baked, not fried.

"We decided we were going to bake them this year instead of fry them," said Blak. "I had some trepidation going forward but it's worked out tremendous."

At Union Bakery, Tony Blak made baked versions of paczki this year. (Tony Blak — Union Bakery/Facebook)

Blak said 100 per cent of the feedback has been positive, but no one is talking about the calories.

"They do talk about it being a lighter product," said Blak, comparing the baked paczki to light beer. 

Frying the paczki is a wet method of cooking, where the doughnut absorbs the oil it's cooking in.

For the baked version of the treat, there's no oil absorbed and the dough may be thicker than traditional paczki. 

The Blak family has been making paczki since the early 1900s, frying first in beef tallow, then lard and finally in vegetable-based oil. 

"Even all-vegetable shortenings increase the number of trans fats," said Blak. "We feel by not frying it, it's a superior product health-wise."

Jordynne Ropat's Plant Joy offered lemon, strawberry, raspberry and vegan cream fillings for her vegan versions of the treat. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

He said he's over 60 now and he has been watching his personal calorie intake. 

"It's kind of a selfish move."

Doughnuts for dietary restrictions

At Healthy Creations, the store's entire product line is gluten-free — so why not the paczki too?

Bakery owner Chris Brecka has two children with celiac disease, so they couldn't indulge in Windsor's favourite Fat Tuesday snack. 

"Making paczkis is mostly motivated from that," said Brecka.

She started making them at home, and even though Healthy Creations is a small bakery, production demands were high. She made 3,000 gluten-free paczki.

"You'll have people dancing in line, they're thrilled," said Brecka, who calls "all the people who love her" to come help out on what is the busiest day of the year for her.

Dietitian Andrea Docherty says go ahead, have the paczki — and don't feel bad about it. (CBC)

They also made vegan paczki this year, in addition to their gluten-free ones.

The gluten-free versions require a slightly different handling process than traditional paczki. They're still fried, but the dough is more of a pancake-batter texture and is dropped directly into the oil, rather than being formed by hand. 

Brecka said the gluten-free version is smaller, which means they have less calories per doughnut. She said customers like the smaller treats, because they can try more flavours.

'Burn off' that paczki

Docherty said a paczki compares to two slices of pizza or a few doughnuts from Tim Hortons. 

"It's difficult to out-exercise a bad diet," said Docherty. She thinks having to go to the gym to "burn off" the treat is a bad way to look at it. "It can be difficult to burn it off. Exercise should be fun and enjoyable."

Check out this CBC Windsor video from 2018 about the exercise equivalent of a paczki:

Paczki Day Workout Tips

3 years ago
Duration 1:16
Check out this video from 2018, where a personal trainer takes us through what it takes to work off the calories from a paczki.

According to Docherty, you should avoid commenting on what other people are eating — and if someone wags a finger at you for having a paczki today, ignore them. 

Taking a Polish word and turning it into English

The word "paczki" is technically the plural of the Polish word for the doughnut, but you've probably never heard the singular version before.

The singular version is "paczek," which you pronounce "poonch-ek," said Blak.

"In Polish, for a lot of people who end up coming to Canada, they'll take English words and put Polish endings on them," said Blak.

"We've now taken a Polish word and Anglo-phied it," said Blak.


  • In an earlier version of this story Andrea Docherty was referred to as a registered nutritionist — she is not. Docherty is a registered dietitian.
    Mar 05, 2019 4:29 PM ET


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