Children's Health

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Balancing Fast Food and Healthy Food

child burger apple

By Diana Weil

Editor's Note: Diana Weil is the daughter of Dr. Andrew Weil. Her column is intended to educate and guide our adult audience on how to interact and communicate with children on health and related matters.

Fast food is a huge problem these days. We like it - kids especially - but it is making us unhealthy and fat. We eat too much of it, and we eat it too frequently. Way too many children are eating fast food more than once every couple of days. Many parents and caretakers think it's easier to take children to Wendy's or McDonald's instead of dragging them to a more expensive restaurant or figuring out something to cook at home that everyone will like. Or children beg for fast food, because they are so influenced by advertising, and in order to make them happy parents give in.

Fast food also tastes good - let's admit it. The companies that sell it know how to appeal to our tastes for sugar, salt, and fat. But eating that way becomes a habit and a hard habit to break.

Consuming fast food on a regular basis is not a good idea. It gives us too many calories, too much animal food and not enough vegetables, too much unhealthy fat, and too many unhealthy carbohydrates. I think it's OK to eat fast food maybe once a month or every few weeks. The problem is when you start to eat it too frequently or all the time.

Parents can help break the fast food habit by telling children that they are not going to get it for them every day. Instead, take them out for healthier food or involve them in making favorite foods at home. For instance, if kids want fries, let them help you make oven-baked potato slices that are a tasty and healthy alternative. The potato pancakes on are good, too. If it's hamburgers they want, try some veggie burgers or soy burgers. I love them.
If you're not allowed to have something, don't you just crave it even more? That's why I think parents should not forbid kids to have fast food or try to eliminate it completely. Kids will just want the forbidden foods more.

I hardly ever go to a fast food place, but if I do, I'll get a salad or maybe fries and a drink once in a while. And I like the yogurt and fruit parfaits at McDonald's.

Diana Dakota Weil


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