Many parents have wondered about the health effects of letting their children eat McDonalds. Apart from simply wanting to know what exactly is in a McDonalds meal, the area surrounding the ‘healthiness’ or opposite of McDonalds is complicated. It is important to note that one party involved in this discussion, ie, McDonalds has not released transparent recipes for their meals and information about their food has been difficult to clearly gauge. In answering the question about how early is it to feed your children McDonald’s, a good place to start is what dietitians say you should be feeding them.
What do dietitians advise?
The National Association of Dietitians of Canada state that each meal should include at least one fruit and vegetable. They also advise that each meal should contain at least 3 different food groups and should be as clear from saturated fats as possible.
- Fruit + Vegetables
“Offer vegetables and fruit at most meals. Serve at least one orange and one dark green vegetable each day, such as carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus and spinach. Use lower fat dips, sauces or dressings to make them more appealing.”
- Avoid fruit juice + sweet drinks
Whole fruit or fruit that is chopped up is the best way to satisfy some of the sweet cravings your children may have without exposing them to high amounts of sugar that is found in most fruit drinks.
- Choose whole grain products high in fibre
“Good choices include large flake oats for oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and whole grain breads.”
- Prepare lower fat meals
“Trim the fat from meats and remove the skin from chicken. Limit breaded and deep-fried foods. Serve meals that include fish and meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu more often.”
One of the difficulties on judging the healthiness or appropriateness of feeding McDonalds to our children is that very few know exactly what is included in the meat base of their meals.
An additional plus to having less meat is that scientists are saying a great way to help the environment is to limit our intake of it. While meat does hold vital proteins, many believe we don’t need to have it with every meal. Beans and lentils are great alternatives that hold large amounts of protein.
- Avoid foods high in saturated fats
“Limit foods high in saturated or unhealthy fats such as chips, nachos, cookies, donuts, pastries, chocolate and deep fried foods.”
According to the American Heart Association, eating a diet too rich in saturated fats can cause weight gain, high cholesterol and lead to the risk of heart disease.
While it would be unlikely that a sneaky- infrequent- trip to Maccas would cause your child any health concerns, many dietitians and experts believe that the rule of thumb should be exactly that, infrequent. Children are learning rapidly as they age, from learning how to speak to how to interact with others. Food is no different. Experts say that what children are exposed to at a young age has a large impact on the trends and patterns of later life. Instilling healthy eating habits early on will likely be beneficial in the long run.