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7 Reasons to Let Your Picky Eater Eat French Fries

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Most toddler and kids go through a picky eating phase. It's OK to let them eat French fries during this phase. Here's why French fries are not so bad, and how to use them to introduce your toddler to new healthier foods.

pinterest image of 7 reasons to let picky eaters eat french fries

If you're new here, this blog is about a severely picky eater toddler. Not just the typical run of the mill "doesn't eat broccoli" picky eating, but a toddler who only ate about 5 things for several months in a row. Our son sometimes freaks out and screams when presented with new foods. He has been struggling to gain weight since he was a baby because of his dislike of eating issues. We even started feeding therapy for his picky eating.

Because of our son's slow weight gain, our pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to feed him cake, ice cream, milkshakes, and whatever else he wanted (in addition to constantly introducing him to healthy foods, of course). Well, ice cream and milkshakes turned out to be a no-go because of our son's food allergies. But even if it wasn't for the allergies, our son hated ice cream and cake when he tried those.

So when our kid decided he liked French fries, we were relieved that we had one more food to throw into his food rotation. At first I felt really awful about feeding my son French fries. If we were out in public and I got him McDonalds or just a side order of fries when we were out to eat, I felt like the world was judging me for feeding my son junk food. And they probably were judging me. There is so much mom-shaming and judging going on nowadays.

(Side note: judging sucks. Don't judge. If you see a mom feeding her son French fries.... you don't know if this is their once-a-month treat, if he is dangerously underweight and this is all he eats, or if this is her one chance to have her son sit and eat quietly while she eats because she had a crazy long day. If you see a mom giving her daughter an iPad instead of reading a book to her on the train, don't judge. You don't know if she has a massive headache that day, if she has a ton of important emails to reply to on her phone, if her babysitter got sick and she couldn't get last-minute childcare. If you don't know, don't judge.)

Back to the French fries: I don't think it's all that awful to feed your child French fries. Obviously, eating only French fries is not good for anyone. I still offer my child vegetables every day, he eats highly nutritious fruits, and I hide vegetables in his preferred foods when I can.

But here are the reasons French fries for kids aren't as awful as people make them out to be:

Why I feed my son French fries:

1. Fat and carbs

I know, it sounds like every adult's dieting nightmare. But babies and young toddlers need more fat in their diets than we do.

Sure, I would be thrilled if my son ate 'normal' food (which, by the way, would typically be cooked with some oil anyway). Heck, I add oil to our son's baby food per our pediatrician's advice (read my post about how to make high-calorie baby food.) And I would be so happy if our son started liking mashed potatoes. So really, eating French fries is similar nutrition-wise as eating potatoes and eating normal grown-up food cooked with oil. 

2. French fries are calorie-dense foods

I avoid French fries because of the extra calories, but my son needs extra calories. He also doesn't have patience for sitting in his high chair for a long time, so if I can get more calories into him with a smaller number of bites, it's a win. Thank goodness for French fries!

3. Exposure to different textures, shapes, flavors

Eating French fries every day might sound repetitive, but it doesn't have to be. Use French fries as a way to expose your child to different textures, shapes, and flavors. You can buy different types of French fries or make some at home.

Try steak fries, seasoned fries, store-bought fries, home-made fries, waffle fries, spiralized potato fries, baked French fries, air-fried French fries (this is my air-fryer toaster oven combo and I LOVE it!), potato wedges. Make them crispier or softer on different days. Cut them thinner or wider. Longer and shorter. Cook fries in coconut oil. Try seasoning with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, smoked paprika, a dash of cayenne, a drizzle of lemon juice, za'atar, sumac, curry powder, dried herbs, fresh herbs, etc. You get the idea. 

image of potato foods for picky eaters

4. Gateway food

Just like French fries can be great for exposing your picky eaters to new flavors, they can be a good way to introduce your kids to new foods, such as potato wedges, roasted potatoes, roasted Jerusalem artichoke (which looks just like roasted potatoes and tastes similar), home fries, tater tots, sweet potato fries, carrot fries, sweet potatoes, latkes (potato fritters), sweet potato latkes, zucchini fries, avocado "fries," boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, shepherds pie, gravy, roast beef with gravy.

You see how far you can take this?

Just keep putting the new foods on their plate next to their favorite French fries, and keep switching up French fries little by little so your child is not stuck on the same shape and flavor of food all the time. Maybe one day they'll try the new food one day and realize it doesn't feel or taste that different in their mouth as French fries. 

It's not guaranteed to work overnight, but consistent exposure to new foods is a proven technique used in food therapy for picky eaters.

I would be lying if I said this wasn't tedious. It gets very tiring putting several types of foods on their plates every day only to have them reject most of it. But what other choice do we really have as parents?

I talk about this more in my article about Food Chaining: How to Get Your Child to Eat Tomatoes and Other Veggies

image of french fries and potatoes for picky eaters

5. Dip

Kids love to dip!! One of my son's first words was "dip dip dip!" (pronounced "dee dee dee!"). He LOVES dipping things into sauce. He doesn't always eat those things but at least he touches the food that he is dipping, while without sauce he might refuse to even touch a food he doesn't want to eat.

image of dips to use for french fries

So serve those fries with different dips and sauces: ketchup, mayo, ketchup+mayo mixed together (affectionately called "pink ketchup" in our house), honey mustard, Ranch, blue cheese dressing, Caesar dressing, aioli, tzatziki, sweet and sour sauce, marinara sauce, pesto, hummus, guacamole, salsa, pickle relish, tartar sauce, cheese sauce.

It doesn't matter if it doesn't totally make sense to you flavor-wise. Just let them try all these different flavors. If they really like one of those dips or sauces, then you can try serving another food to dip into that same sauce and see if they will try a new food.

6. French fries are a "safe" food to try next to a new food

A lot of picky eaters actually feel threatened by seeing a new food offered to them. As I said above, my son SCREAMS and freaks out at the sight of some foods. So placing a tiny bit of a new food next to a "safe" food that he knows and likes is a good way to expose him to the new food in a non-threatening, low-pressure way.

I don't expect him to magically eat the new food, but to just accept that it is something that appears at the dinner table, it is OK to have it there, it won't harm him, and look! mommy and daddy are eating it too. 

image of french fries on a toddler plate

This plate here is from Sillywood Products.

There have actually been a few times when our son surprised us by just taking a bite out of the new food. In those moments my husband and I just hold our breath and look at each other waiting to see what will happen, trying not to bring any attention to our son.

7. Self-feeding

French fries are one of the few foods that my son finger-feeds himself every time. Otherwise, I often have to feed him with a fork, spoon, or even my fingers, depending on his mood.

So when we have a meal where my son can feed himself and I don't have to hover over him for 40 minutes physically feeding him, it's a win. It makes for a more relaxed meal and gives my son a sense of freedom, it gives me a break from feeding him, and breaks the expectation that I will be feeding him during every single meal.

image of toddler feeding himself

So what do you think? Does this change your mind about feeding your kids French fries once in a while? Or do you think this is the worst parenting advice ever? Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

Of course, you should check with your pediatrician or nutritionist about whether French fries can be a part of your child's diet. If buying store-bought French fries, look for ones without any preservatives or artificial flavors added, and try to cut down on sodium from other foods because French fries can be heavily salted.

Use healthy oils to fry the French fries instead of using lard (or bake them instead). Make sure your child is getting lots of nutrients in their diet through fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. Give your kid a multi-vitamin. You know, all the usual advice.

Hopefully your child doesn't eat only French fries forever. But in the meantime, maybe French fries are not the enemy. Use them as an opportunity to expose your child to new foods, textures, flavors, and eating habits.

Work with your child, not against them.

You might be interested in these other posts for picky eaters:

A few other blog posts from High Chair Chronicles that might help you with feeding your picky eater:

pinterest image of feeding french fries to picky eaters

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Debra

Sunday 1st of May 2022

This article made me feel a lot better knowing I’m not alone! My son loves French fries and I already have been doing some of this like offering a little of other things with his fries praying that he tries other things. I thought the sauce thing was a good idea as well trying to find something else he may like. Hopefully, he will eventually find more foods that he likes, he loves bananas which I’m happy I can get him to eat that everyday! Great read thanks!

Princess

Wednesday 16th of March 2022

I can’t tell you how many nights (& days!) I’ve cried because I felt like an insanely horrible mom who couldn’t HELP her super duper picky child know that the HEALTHY foods are excellent, tasty & “SAFE” to eat. OMG, I’m tearing up now!! I can count how many foods my son will eat & EVERYTHING else is a sure fire, don’t even try it, absolutely NOT… no-go!!

Thank you for sharing your story. Reading this has been a moment of fresh, spring air!! 💕💕

Kate

Friday 25th of March 2022

I'm sorry to hear you're going through a hard time right now, but you're definitely not alone!

Kiersten

Tuesday 21st of December 2021

I’m a new mom to a one year old and i have been freaking out because my daughter rarely eats but she loves French fries. When i try to give her new things to eat she freaks out some things she likes but I feel relieved it’s something other moms are going through.

Kate

Monday 10th of January 2022

There are definitely lots of moms going through this! Hopefully she will stop freaking out about new foods, but try to keep mealtimes fun! Even if it's just French fries. :)

Sunshine

Wednesday 3rd of November 2021

Wow I don’t think I’ve ever related more to an article. Both my children are tiny and I mean TINY!! The oldest is getting better but my youngest is almost two and lives off of soy formula, fries and slim jims. I feel horrible about it but that’s literally all she’ll eat mostly. Although recently we’ve been able to sneak a few bananas in. She has food allergies so it’s hard to try and “make” her eat other things. I’m always worried she’s not eating something because it’s upsetting her stomach or something. Thanks for reassuring me that some food is better than no food!

Kate

Friday 3rd of December 2021

*hugs* Hang in there!!

Brittany

Saturday 7th of August 2021

Thank you so much for this article. It is 430am here in California and this picky eating business is exactly what is on my mind. My son will be 3 in December and he was primarily breastfed. Heck, I'm STILL nursing (Yeah, come slap me lol) 3 times a day. He struggled with weight gain last year and was only 17lbs at his 18month appointment. The doctor thought we might need feeding therapy but gave us the green light to pretty much feed him whatever high calorie/high fat food we could. We in many ways, I feel, made him eat. It was a battle for a while, but we increased from just Crackers to things like Malt o Meal (I mix egg, use whole milk, peanut butter) and mashed potatoes (mixed with whole milk, cheese or sour cream, a dab of avocado oil) for example, to sneak in those fats. Thank God he is now weighing in almost a year later at 32lbs and is back on the growth chart. Still, however, he remains incredibly picky and refuses to try new things. He is still smaller than everyone else but very mighty. For the last 6 months, he wants fries. Any kind of fries! And by golly, I've given them to him! He Feeds himself, we eliminate that daily battle and we let him have at it. I feel great about that bit of independence he has about it but of course the judges are always in my ear about it and sometimes it gets to me. So, I am very thankful to know I am not alone and not a bad mother.

I always tell people who talk crap about it, what mother doesn't want to feed their child? We have to work with them and not against them. Sheesh. Thanks again for sharing. Yes this was a rant but it is 430am lol and I'm just pleased to have come across this post!

Kate

Friday 3rd of December 2021

I gotcha! So glad to hear you son is eating a few more things and gaining weight. It's definitely hard but you're right about working with them, not against them. Wishing you all the best.

Kate

Thursday 12th of August 2021

Yes, I know what you're saying, 100%. Hang in there!!

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