As Americans, and as parents, are we willing to trade the health of our children for the convenience that fast food offers? Are the lives of our children worth the crayons and color-your-own placemats?
Perhaps you believe that reports of fast (and fatty) foods being unhealthy is an over-statement and meant only for those who indulge in such a lifestyle. Are you willing to gamble the health of your children?
I will tell you what I believe, and you can make up your own mind, but just remember the health of your children rests on the decisions you make. I believe it is time—no, far past time—that we focus on what our kids eat. The choices they make and the ones we make for them are critical to their growth and development.
I could talk to you about chicken fingers, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni & cheese and so many others, but for the sake of focusing my rant I will just keep to the subject of french fries.
What kids' menu is complete without french fries? French fries alone have enough calories, bad fats, and salt as any three other items combined on most kids menus, and yet they are considered the "extra" or the "side", but you know as well as I do that most kids dive into the fries first. The fries are most of the time the last bite as they run off to play on the fast-food playground.
French fries are the fast-food staple for most consumers—a consumer unaware or unconcerned about their health or waistlines, that is. Well, you can be sure that our kids don't care about either until it is too late. That is why as parents it is our job to do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy.
I do think the word is getting out that french fries are bad for us, but still there are government reports that suggest french fry production is up every year by as much as 2-3 percent from each year before. Even with the low-carb craze, while potato growers say sales leveled off, as a whole, Atkins and the Zone movement had little effect on french fry production.
If people eat fewer fries, this is bad news for the potato industry, but would be good news for our health. It is clear that people are passing more on the potato as a whole. It appears that the blame is on potatoes instead of the real culprit, the french fries.
Perhaps parents find it difficult to "Just Say No" to french fries...?
As a parent, I know it can be difficult and that is why I have put together 3 reasons why it is so important for the health of your children why you never give your children french fries. After these 3 reasons, I hope that you can see why fried potatoes are a risk to the growth and development of your child.
Three Reasons To Boycott French Fries
1. French Fries Contain Bad Fats
Frying up our food is sure tasty, but bad fats or saturated fats are what turn a potato into a time bomb for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Not all fats are bad and more Americans are learning that fats come in the categories of the "Good Fats" and "Bad Fats."
While good fats like vegetable oils, sunflower, and olive oil may actually have some protective effects on our health, the "bad fats" or saturated fats are directly linked to the clogging of arteries, it is the bad fats that do far greater damage. Damage caused by saturated fat is found in margarine, vegetable shortening and anything that says "partially hydrogenated!"
Bad fats have been shown to raise levels of "bad" cholesterol or Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL). Saturated fats also stay in the body longer and raise circulating blood triglycerides that lower the "good" cholesterol or High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).
When our children consume these bad fats they make the platelets in their blood stickier. These sticky little platelets then form clots that attach to the walls of arteries that supply vital areas of the body with oxygenated blood. These sticky little clots create a wall of plaque that can eventually lead to heart attack or a stroke.
2. French Fries Are Made Of The Bad Carbohydrates
No potato in its natural state is bad for us, but rather we make it bad because of how we eat it or when we decide to eat it. A potato is a starch and it is made up of simple carbohydrates. Most conventional french fries are made up of white potatoes, and white potatoes have been proven to more easily convert in the body to sugar.
When our body takes in these quickly-absorbing carbohydrates we are forced to use them as energy right away or store them in fat. Unless we are headed to the gym after we eat or consume them after exercise, we are more likely to gain weight from these kinds of potatoes.
When we continually consume quickly absorbing carbohydrates, the high conversion of sugar causes a surge in insulin production. When we continually spike our insulin, we develop a resistance to insulin that has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Sadly, our children are not an exception to this process. Some will argue that children need lots of carbs and many nutritional experts push whole grains, but the reality is that healthy whole grains are becoming more and more difficult to find.
In theory, raising the whole grains in our children's diets is a good suggestion. Whole grains are more difficult for the body to convert to energy, producing a slower and steadier supply of carbohydrates.
Choosing the right grains is important and many companies have found ways of turning a good thing into something "more profitable." Bigger profits are made on things that are tastier and can stay on the shelf longer.
3. French Fries Contain Trans Fats And Eating French Fries
Frying up our food is sure tasty, but trans fats or trans fatty acids are what turns a potato into a ticking-timebomb for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Not all fats are just "good fats" and "bad fats." Fats also come in the "damaged fats" category. Damaged fats act as carcinogens in the body.
French fries have high levels of acrylamide, reported to be a possible cancer-causing substance. While there are not yet any conclusive studies in children that show a link has been established to consuming french fries and cancer, it has been reported that cancer in children is on the rise in children ages 2-4 years old.
It makes sense to keep the french fries out of the hands of your children until more is known. That is unless having your fast food is more important than the health of your children ...
Changes Are Coming, But Is It Enough?
The fast food industry is starting to change its menus to more of what they claim to be "health-conscious" foods. In 2002, McDonald's announced that they would be using new cooking oil in their fries that would be healthier to the heart. Well, it's not! You see, they claim the change will reduce the trans fats by as much as 48%.
Wow, they are going out of their way to make my children 48% less likely to get heart disease, diabetes and cancer, that is so generous of McDonalds...
I'm so excited when a company that spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year advertising to my kids decides to take bold steps toward "less dangerous" nutrition. Who are these people? Do they have kids of their own?
Don't get me wrong, I do want to see these companies move toward good nutrition, but this is not a big enough step!
The fact is that french fries are available at more than half the fast food chains country-wide. In most chains, fries are the only side dish on the kids' menus.
I won't mention just how bad the chicken nuggets are or how the hamburgers are made up of hardly any real meat. I will keep to the topic of french fries because I said I wouldn't talk about the other fatty, sugary sides of corn bread, biscuits or highly processed flowery breads.
I will also not talk about how each kid is offered a high-sugar caffeinated beverage with each "make you Happy" meal. A kid's meal provides more than twice as many calories then what any kid will eat at home.
More and more sit-down restaurants have made strides toward improving healthy eating choices for kids. Many restaurants provide fresh carrot sticks and cucumbers, but as a parent I can't imagine my kids getting too excited about their veggies. Without better options I'm probably more likely to ask the restaurants to hold the fries.
Let's Be Clear, I'm Not Saying You Can't Have Potatoes
You get to eat potatoes! You just need to eat them in a much more healthy way. I realize just telling you french fries are bad for your child is not enough. I need to give you some healthy options. I have 3 tasty ways that you can swap out your french fries with healthier options:
1. Bake Your Potatoes
Baking is much healthier than frying up your foods. Slicing up your potatoes and baking them with a little olive oil topped with a potassium salt substitute is a much healthier way to go and is still very tasty. Also, remember to keep the skin. If you need to top your baked potato, do so with a low-fat cottage cheese or a small amount of sour cream.
2. Have More Yams and Sweet Potatoes
Yams and sweet potatoes are different than standard potatoes because they take longer to raise blood sugar and provide more fiber and micronutrients. Next time you can bake your fries out of yams and sweet potatoes to get the health benefits of their fiber and vitamins.
3. Eating Less Is Best
Having smaller portions is a great way to enjoy your starches at each meal. As consumers become more health conscious, they shy away from potatoes, but what they should do is just eat fewer of them. Keep your starch servings to no greater than the size of your own four fingers.
For parents who don't want their kids to eat their potatoes fried, there are plenty of other ways to eat them.
Educating Your Kids Is Very Important
Children always want to know "why" and you should be willing to explain to your kids why it is important that you don't eat the fries when so many others will. Children are always soaking things up like a sponge and learn best by example. The younger the better, but be prepared for your children and possibly your spouse to tease you.
Just because you do your best to educate your family, don't expect them to boycott the fries. Just take your stand, educate, and hope it is enough that they will see it is important to you!