We try to keep our junk food intake down to a minimum, but we do go to a fast food restaurant once or twice a month. It’s all we can afford as a family. That can’t hurt, can it?

While there are very few times when I think you should say never to a child, I believe going to a fast food restaurant is one of those times. I recommend that they be avoided completely. They cook with too much oil and too much salt. While their salad bars may be attractive, they have some of the cheapest and greasiest dressings you’ll find anywhere. The chocolate shakes have more salt than the French fries! There is little nutritional value to what they serve. I consider them as serving heart attacks through a drive-through window.

Many fast food restaurants cook high-fat meat with high-fat cooking methods, often over a grill. The result is that fat falls on the hot flame and creates increased free radicals in the food. These unstable oxygen molecules are charcoal-like compounds which raise blood pressure, increase heart disease, and promote the incidence of cancer.

Chicken and fish served at fast food restaurants are also often deep fried in grease. When your children want French fries, tell them how the cooks take perfectly good potatoes, soak them in yellow fat, and then deep fry them. Then they are salted before they’re served. When children learn how French fries are prepared, they’ll agree these potatoes don’t sound very appetizing.

Many of the fast food restaurants have tried to get on the health bandwagon by putting together light burgers and more salad bars. Many of the greens available on these salad bars may have been sprayed with dangerous chemicals called sulfites. This substance will keep the lettuce green longer but it is highly toxic to many people. I advise all my patients to avoid sulfites.

While an occasional fast food meal won’t kill you, it will begin to set patterns which will encourage the children to beg for return visits. In our family, we skip the colorful playground outside the fast food castles and we avoid the advertised toys. Instead, we take our daughter to a park playground, bring our own toys, and eat foods we can be sure will never harm us.

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