Wednesday, July 22, 2015

French fries are the devil's food

That’s the quote that has stuck with me from the book “Younger Next Year.” You have to admit it’s catchy … and it’s hard to argue with. Actually, you could say that about the entire book. I read it years ago, still dip into it now and then, and heartily recommend it. But this column isn’t about the book and its messages on staying healthy as you age; it’s about French fries.

When I first read the French fry quote, I diligently avoided French fries.  It’s not like I didn’t already know they were bad for me, but the quote was a humorous inspiration. Over the years, though, they’ve crept back into my diet.  Who doesn’t think, “I’m eating grilled fish; I can afford French fries on the side?” Or maybe it’s, “I’ll just split the fries with my husband--no harm done.”  Wrong!

It’s so easy to fool yourself until some bit of news stops you in your tracks.   For me, it was a short video, “Should I eat French fries?” featured in a TIME magazine article, “Why restaurant food may be less healthy than fast food.”  We all knew eating out wasn’t all that healthy and that preparing meals at home was the healthiest route, but fast foods as the next best option is a new one for me. The article included some interesting data on the differences in how much fat and sodium we consume depending on whether we eat out or take out.

Much more disheartening was the video. In just over two minutes, it establishes there’s “no redeeming nutritional value” in French fries. I knew they were bad, just not that bad.  I’ve been avoiding them because they’re so fattening, but there’s more.  Apparently, once you remove the peel—the healthiest part of the potato—and then fry and salt ‘em, you’ve merely succeeded in making the devil’s food highly addictive.

Seven of nine nutrition experts say you should not eat French fries at all, and if you do, they should be a selective treat.  Worse news? French fries are the #1 vegetable consumed by toddlers as young as fifteen months.  Guess they’re well on their way to being addicts by age two.

Perhaps we boomers didn’t get addicted at quite such an early age because fast food restaurants weren’t as prevalent back then.  My mother only occasionally made fries from scratch until the bags of frozen fries came out. Then we had them at least weekly for dinner. Still, it wasn’t French fries that were my downfall; it was potato chips. 

In New York, where we grew up, there was always a big bag of Wise potato chips in the pantry. Once we moved to Georgia, though, that staple was replaced with tins of Charles Chips. Who remembers the Charles Chips truck making home deliveries?  They kept our home well stocked with potato chips, pretzels and the occasional tin of cookies.

That never-ending childhood supply is probably why, to this day, I’m addicted to chips. If a bag ever hits the door, it’s sure to be demolished in a day or two. I keep my addiction in check by only allowing myself a snack size bag with a sandwich when I’m out. For me, the warning should read “Potato chips are the devil’s food.” What about you?