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Should You Only Be Eating "Six Fries Per Serving"?

CARLY CASSELLA
6 DEC 2018

Most of us know that eating fried potatoes, lathered in oil and salt, is not exactly the healthiest indulgence.

But when Harvard nutritionist, Eric Rimm, told the New York Times what he would prefer to see on our plates, the internet got especially salty.

 

"I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries," Rimm told the newspaper last week.

It's got to be one of the most unrealistic dieting tips ever given by a nutritionist (and that's saying a lot). Limiting yourself to just six fries sounds like a form of torture, but under the guise of being reasonable, the NYT has simply called this cruel practice "exercising portion control".

The internet was having none of it. Since the article was published last week, there's been a ton of backlash online.

Amid the French fry furore, Rimm has since clarified that he was merely suggesting restaurants offer smaller plates of fries. But even though a serving of just six fries would be an absurd thing for a restaurant to sell, Rimm does have some legitimate points.

He calls potatoes "starch bombs", and his vendetta against these crunchy treats mostly has to do with the way that restaurants overuse them.

 

Many restaurants dole out huge servings of fries with every meal, and often, the calories from this side dish nearly outweigh the main meal itself. In fact, a large serving of McDonald's fries is just 30 calories less than a Big Mac (540 calories).

And, as Rimm points out, while potatoes can be healthy in certain contexts, in their deep-fried form, they are no substitute for green leafy vegetables. A study last year found those who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week were at a higher risk of mortality compared with those who ate un-fried potatoes.

But sometimes, when food is clearly unhealthy, exercising portion control can become the butt of a joke. Telling people to cut back on the amount of fried potatoes they are eating is one thing, but we're probably not going to see six-fry-servings any time soon.

However, it is certainly a problem that in the US, potatoes are the most consumed vegetable; furthermore, this 'vegetable' is mostly served in the form of French fries, potato chips and other processed potato products.

 

Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietician and nutritionist, told TODAY Food that she agrees with Rimm that potatoes can be bad for you when fried. But she also thinks a limit of just six fries is a "drastic measure" that aligns with a lot of "carb-phobic" diets.

Impractical dieting advice sets us all up for failure. In fact, researchers have said that many of us are unsuccessful at dieting because we have unrealistic expectations - some of which are fed to us by experts.

Instead of restricting ourselves to such extremes, which can cause cravings and bingeing, Taub-Dix says we just need to make sure we balance out that greasy bag of fried potatoes with healthier, fresher options.

Because while it's true that potatoes are classified as a high glycemic food, studies have shown if they are eaten as part of a healthy diet, this sugar spike can be counteracted. In fact, if potatoes are cooked in certain ways, they can actually be surprisingly healthy.

Ultimately, Taub-Dix and other experts are promoting a kind of diet that is less about deprivation and more about getting as many whole, healthful foods onto your plate as possible.

After all, research shows that people who do not worry about counting calories or limiting portion sizes, but who try to fill their diet with vegetables and whole foods, lose significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

And that sounds a lot healthier than counting out six fries.