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At eighteen months old, a child’s palate should be sufficiently developed to tolerate fast food. As with breastfeeding, sleeping style, education, and play, responsible parents will spend ample time to make sure the fast food choice for their child is appropriate for the specific child. If you’re like us and have only one child, this task is much easier. The concept, as I learned at holistic coaching school, is called bioindividuality. This means that not every choice, such as McDonald’s over Burger King, will fit each child. We take it on a case-by-case basis.

As I studied to be a health coach, Dr. Mehmet Oz was one of our guest speakers. At the time, he was in the midst of penning his best-selling books and was reaching the tipping point of awareness via his appearances on Oprah. This was before he had secured his own television show, before he became one of the go-to voices for the populace regarding health. With his new platform, Dr. Oz has inspired millions of people to alter their eating habits and he even created fast food diet to help get people away from slaving in their kitchens every day.

After learning that America’s leading health expert approves, Sara and I spent several months weighing our options to supplement our daughter’s diet. As with Dr. Oz’s plan, we can’t see adhering to just one restaurant, so we’ve had to break it into subsets. This is how we make our parenting decisions. It isn’t easy and can be exhausting, but we feel the extra effort will benefit our child in the future.

Here are three of our favorites as a result of our extensive research:

McDonald’s Vanilla Milkshake: Kalia still breastfeeds and we have no plan on stopping unless she leads the way. The World Health Organization recommends two years of nursing as a minimum, but if Kalia weans early, we’ll live with that. However, Kalia is a night nurser, too, and Sara hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since before our baby was born.

Enter the vanilla milkshake.

We don’t want our daughter to incur brain freeze, so we let the milkshakes sit out for a bit. Unlike the Frosty, the McDonald’s milkshake does something interesting as it warms. It separates so that there is vanilla sediment, possibly the ice cream portion, and a yellowish-white film or oil floating up top. If you’ve ever looked at breast milk, you know that it’s a bit clear on sight and not actually bright white like the cow’s milk you buy in a store. As such, we have figured out a way to get Mama some sleep while still meeting our daughter’s needs.

For a trial period, we skimmed off the separated oily substance and put it in a baby bottle. Amazingly, Kalia hasn’t noticed the difference! Sara gets to sleep and I wake up for a ten minute feeding. She gulps the stuff right down and sleeps like a log afterwards. In fact, she’s not as bouncy first thing in the morning either, which lets us start our day in a more relaxed fashion.

While Wendy’s was too thick, Burger King did not provide a good ratio upon separation. Looks like Mickey D’s is the standard bearer for night weaning purposes.

Dunkin’ Donuts Apple-Cheese Danish: According to the “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners,” the former American Dietetics Association recommends that people work with a dietitian to who will guide a client’s use of sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), because humans have an “innate desire for sweet taste.”

Until recently, Kalia had not been given any products with added sugar. Nor had we given her sweeteners. Her source to satisfy her innate desire for sweet had been a wide variety of fruit and some vegetables. Even meat has a sweetness to it. However, nutrition and health experts such as the AND and the American Heart Association provide cover. The AHA grants 6-9 teaspoons of sweetener/sugar per day. A dietitian can help us navigate our way toward consuming the 19 pounds of sugar per year the AHA suggests as a limit so that we can enjoy our birthright, the taste of sweet.

Thus, we wanted to find a sweet way to perk up our baby now that she eases into each morning without the overwhelming gusto the night nursing seemed to instigate. The apple-cheese danish from Dunkin’ Donuts provides our daughter with a serving of fruit, dairy, grains, and some of her recommended added sweetener. In this case, HFCS.

Additionally, this danish packs an astonishing amount of ingredients – more than 100 – into a small package. By contrast, McDonalds’ Egg McMuffin only has about 80 ingredients, while Burger King’s French Toast Sticks clock in at a paltry 60+ ingredients. With the abundance of ingredients and the expert-approved sweetness to sate our daughter’s natural cravings, the apple-cheese danish turned out to be a no-brainer.

KFC Honey Barbecue Sandwich: Fitness Magazine has this as one of their surprisingly healthy fast foods. Not only is it quick and easy, but health and fitness experts have deemed it to be healthy. They write, “This Southern specialty is actually the lowest-calorie full-size sandwich on the menu.” As you might realize, with the rise in obesity in this country, it is never too soon to count calories? Some people might refer to it as baby fat, but is she really a baby anymore? She walks, can say words, eats with a fork, and reads a little. Our daughter doesn’t just lie there like a lump, so I think “baby” is in the rear view mirror.

This sandwich has 300 calories and provides both sugar and molasses, providing ample opportunity for Kalia to satisfy her natural craving for sweet. It is marinated in a delicious seasoning that consists of salt, modified corn starch, sodium phosphates, monosodium glutamate, potassium phosphate, and carrageenan. It’s hard to find these ingredients at the grocery store and you have to order MSG in bulk, so we generally marinate our chicken in olive oil with rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Luckily, KFC shores up what we lack in our own home.

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that acts on the glutamic receptors inside the brain. Glutamate is also an endogenous compound, so it’s natural to the body. But if one has a stroke, the excitatory properties can damage brain cells, making certain functions difficult to recover. MSG itself emphasizes the fifth taste – umami – which generally is considered to mean “delicious.” As an excitatory compound, MSG provides a little energy. Our daughter needs this afternoon pick-me-up, because the energy explosion provided by the danish in the morning seems to subside quite quickly. Theoretically, I suppose, a little excitement will help our daughter burn those calories, but I haven’t seen the science on it.

In Conclusion: We resisted fast food for the first year and a half of our child’s life, but leaders in the health field have told us we’re wrong. We can literally have our cake and eat it, too. And they go to great lengths to tell us how. You can watch a famous doctor for free or pay a dietitian to direct you in how to consume your added sweeteners. You can buy a magazine dedicated to exercise and diet or look to a trusted organization that says it is “Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.”

Intuition had not served us well and we didn’t know what we’d been missing. I’m glad we’ve turned to the experts.

Oh, and One More Thing: Either you’re on to me by now or you’re sincerely repulsed by my family. If you’ve made it this far, I wish you a happy and healthy April Fool’s Day.

Peace.