Junk Food Could Damage Your Toddler's Brain

child eating french fries and a hot dog

Can't wait to snap a photo of your toddler trying her first French fry? Well, you may want to hold off on that first fry. A new study on food and your brain just came out with disturbing results: Fast food can make you dumb. Seriously. Trans fats -- the kind found in fast food and processed food -- are tied with lower brain volume and worse cognitive performance. In other words, junk food makes your brain smaller and slower.

It's pretty hard to rationalize this one away. If you want your child to eventually do well in school, it sounds like you'll want to lay off the fast food. And you may want to cut back on the boxed snack foods, too. Sorry. We already know that childhood obesity is a problem (or do we?). But here's one more reason to take your children's nutrition more seriously.

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I know it's exciting when toddlers get their teeth and can start eating "big people" food. We all love seeing our kids experience new things and enjoying the same foods we love. But it looks like bonding with your kids over your love for fast food is a colossally bad idea. Now don't panic -- no one is taking your French fries away. This is about facing the facts and taking responsibility for the choices you're making -- for yourself and for your kids. We want our kids to grow into their best, brightest selves, right?

Oregon Health & Science University researcher Dr. Gene Bowman says the link between trans fats and brain power is so dramatic, he recommends we stay away from all trans fats. This means if you're not already checking out the ingredients lists, now is a good time to start. He says, "If you aren't sure whether something has them, just look at the ingredients; if there's vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated anything ... just put it down. That’s the big message here."

The thing is, the toddler years are a great time to get into the habit of healthy eating -- before they even know there are other options out there and while you're still the biggest influence in their lives. It's an opportunity you can't afford to miss. I know some of you already feel strongly about feeding your toddlers well. Here's one more reason to support you when you tell grandma you'd rather not let her take your babies out for burgers.

Have you introduced your toddler to fast food yet? Does this study give you second thoughts about getting started?


Image ©iStock.com/romrodinka

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