It's Fat Tuesday! Have a Paczki!

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They're sweet, and soft, and gooey and ... unbelievably fattening: paczki are everywhere on Fat Tuesday and that's OK. No, they're not part of your healthy, balanced diet, but if you're going to indulge just this once, let today be it.

It's all about balance.

So what is this thing called a paczki and just how unhealthy is it? The nutritional facts of this Polish donut (oh, and do not call it a donut when speaking to the Polish people) are hard to pin down since the size may vary. Oftimes, paczki have upwards of 700 calories, with 25 grams of fat. That's a third of calories and fat recommended in a daily 1,800-to-2,000-calorie diet.

What's in these little buggers that make them oh-so-desirable? The dough of the traditional paczki is rich with flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and butter. The treats are then shaped into spheres and deep fried, then stuffed with various fillings like cream cheese, butter or jam. To top them off, they are coated with more sugar or candied citrus.

Paczki are most popular in Chicago, as the city has a large Polish-American population, but other cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids, MI also indulge in the Mardi Gras treats.

The craze only happens once a year, on Fat Tuesday, as the last hoorah before Ash Wednesday and whatever you decided to give up for Lent. So go ahead, enjoy, and don't count the calories!

(And good luck pronouncing it!)

No bakeries nearby? Click here for a traditional Polish paczki recipe.