Most parents won't deny that they love french fries liberally sprinkled with salt and hot out of the fryer. That taste is why your child is likely enamored with the crispy potato treat, too. While you definitely don't need to ban french fries from ever passing your child's lips, you should limit how many of them he eats. Fries tend to be high in salt and fat, which aren't good for your child's body.
French Fries and Fat
A 100-gram serving of french fries, which is equal to about a 1/2 cup, contains 14 grams of fat, of which 2.5 grams are saturated, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Though your child does need a small amount of fat to support healthy development, too much can have the opposite effect and increase your child's risk of certain health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Some fast food restaurants cook their fries in oil that contains trans fats, which are even more damaging than saturated fat and can raise your child's cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
French Fries and Sodium
Your child will consume 357 milligrams of sodium per serving when he eats french fries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most children consume much more than the 2,300 milligrams of sodium, which is the daily upper limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like saturated fat, too much sodium can increase your child's lifetime risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Limiting your child's intake of french fries, and all fast food, is one way to cut his sodium intake.
French fries supply small amounts of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin E, which gives them some nutritional value, but they're low in other essential nutrients your child needs daily. If your child's diet includes large amounts of fries, it leaves less room in her diet for more nutritious options such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, the more salty foods your child eats, the more likely he'll crave more salt in other parts of his diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Making fries an occasional treat will help prevent this propensity for the salty taste and cut down on your child's craving for salt.
Tips and Considerations
Your child doesn't have to completely give up french fries, but you should limit his intake to a small order or have him share an order with the rest of the family. Even better, encourage your child to choose a healthier option in place of the fries. A baked potato, fruit cup or side salad are all lower in fat and sodium than french fries, and they each supply essential nutrients, too. Make your own french fries at home so your child can continue eating them, but in a healthier way. Cut potatoes into strips and toss them with olive oil. Sprinkle the potatoes with a small amount of sea salt and roast them until they're crispy. They'll taste similar to traditional fries, but are much lower in saturated fat and sodium.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Restaurant, Family Style, French Fries
- HealthyChidlren.org: What About Fat and Cholesterol?
- HealthyChildren.org: The Perils of Fast Food
- KidsHealth: Are There Healthy Fast-Food Options?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: High Sodium Intake in Children and Adolescents: Cause for Concern
- Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images