French Fries!  They’ve getting a lot of attention lately, especially since Jamie Oliver expressed his shock that french fries count as a vegetable in school lunches.  But school kids aren’t alone. Here in America we all love French fries. And our attachment starts early.

  • One third of all vegetables consumed in the United States come from just three sources: french fries, potato chips, and iceberg lettuce.
  • Even though 80% of toddlers eat vegetables every day, french fries are the ones they’re most likely to have.

I’m not going to bash french fries.  You already know they’re a nutritional nightmare.  But consider this…

1) French fries make your kids less willing to eat things that aren’t so crunchy, aren’t so salty and aren’t so fried.  Stuff like spinach.

Research shows that eating foods that contain sugar, fat, and/or salt make us want to eat more foods that contain sugar, fat and/or salt. Not only do these yummy ingredients foster the preference (or habit) for a certain taste, or a particular kind of crunch, but there is mounting evidence that “hyperpalatable foods” — those with just the right amount of sugar, fat and or/salt —  actually produce changes in our brain chemistry that cause us to overeat.

Sugar, fat and salt make us want/crave/need more.  It’s no surprise, then, that McDonald’s fries have all three.

I bet you never have trouble getting your kids to eat things such as chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, and pizza. Now you know why: sugar, fat and salt.

2) Some fries are healthier than others…

A small order (71g) of McDonald’s french fries delivers:

  • 230 calories
  • 11g of fat
  • 160mg of sodium

A comparable portion of Ore-Ida Golden Fries delivers:

  • 101 calories
  • 3g of fat
  • 262mg sodium

And the ones you make at home are probably even better.

but they all do the same damage to your kids’ habits.

No matter what you do to fries, they train your kids’ taste buds towards foods that offer a similar crunchy, salty, fried kick and away from the fresh, natural foods you’re always hoping they’ll eat.

If you want your kids to eat real veggies, don’t give them fries more than once a week.  And pay attention to how often salty crunch is the eating experience your kids have.

P.S. I’ve got bad news if you think Tater Tots are a better choice.  A 71g serving has…

  • 140 calories
  • 7g of fat
  • 347mg of sodium

Talk about creating a salt addiction!

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Source: Nestle, M., 2006. What to Eat. New York: North Point Press, p. 63;  Kessler, D. A., MD, 2009. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. New York, NY: Rodale. Fox, M. K., S. Pac, B. Devaney, and L. Jankowski. 2004. “Feeding Infants and Toddler Study: What Foods Are Infants and Toddlers Eating?” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104 (1): S22-S30; accessed 4/18/2010; accessed 4/18/2010; accessed 4/18/2010.