Fast food companies are starting to make their kids’ meals healthier. That being said, even adding apple slices to a meal does not cancel out the other unhealthy food that comes along. Things like French fries offer very little nutritional value, especially to a kid who depends on all the nutrients and vitamins for a normal development. Let’s be realistic though, very few kids are going to make it to adulthood without ever having fast food. It’s convenient, it’s easy, and kids love the little toys that almost always accompany their fast food meals. No child is going to perish with the occasional fast food.
But when should you introduce your kid do fast food?
NOT Too Early!
Any time before a year old is too early to introduce fast food to a kid. Before 12 months, they need little more than fruits, vegetables, and formula/breast milk. The risk of allergies is very high when introducing certain foods before the first birthday as well. Lastly, children under the age of 1 do not usually possess the teeth nor the skill to thoroughly chew any foods served at fast food restaurants. Sure, you could break up French fries tiny enough, but why? There is no reason to feed any child under the age of one anything from a fast food restaurant.
What does “too early” mean, though? Personally, I would say “keep the kids away from fast food forever”. We all know that it’s not going to happen, so let’s be a bit more realistic: no fast food before the age of three. Kids so young need vitamins and minerals, not a ton of calories and fat and salt to have their kidneys work like factories. Remember, most likely you haven’t eaten any hamburgers and fries until you were three either and not because people were stupid back then!
After the first year, it might be a little more acceptable to allow children to have fast food (by some). Their teeth and chewing skills are further along, they need more variety, etc. However, remember that even the toys they give along with the kids’ meals are rarely for any child under the age of three. Parents are urged to ask for special toys for children under the age of three. This should make a statement. Fast food companies cater to children and try to rope them in by adding a toy to meals. But even they do not want to cater to those under the age of three.
Keep in Mind
Keep in mind when deciding when to introduce your kid to fast food that all the experts agree that healthy eating habits are formed early on. Allowing fast food as an occasional treat can turn into a regularly served meal very quickly. After a few times, your child will start begging for French fries or chicken nuggets or burgers on a regular basis. It is up to you to say no, but once they really get a taste for this food, it will be hard to enforce healthy food anymore. If they don’t know how good it tastes (because of the extra salt and sugar and fat that are NOT BENEFICIAL to the kid’s health), they won’t ask for it!
Put it off
Obviously this is an individual parent’s decision. Some will introduce early and some will introduce later. Kids can do perfectly fine with the occasional fast food meal. In the end though, it is highly recommended to put off introducing for as long as possible. Your kids truly need to let those good, healthy eating habits get into place before they should be allowed anything else as a treat. Once they are in the habit of eating lots of fresh food, vegetables, and fruits, then they will be better able to handle occasionally having something unhealthy. Good luck!