This Harvard professor says you should eat only 6 fries at once — and people are not here for it

A Harvard professor is in hot water for saying people should eat only “six french fries” at a time. (Photo: Getty Images/Philippe Huguen)
A Harvard professor is in hot water for saying people should eat only “six french fries” at a time. (Photo: Getty Images/Philippe Huguen)

A Harvard professor is coming under fire after suggesting that people should eat only six french fries at once. Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, made the comments in a New York Times article about how unhealthy fries are.

“There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of french fries,” Rimm said. “I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.” He also lamented Americans’ love of the fried food: “It’s too bad in this country you’ll pry them from my cold dead hand.”

People are having strong feelings on Twitter about his serving suggestion:

Rimm is out of the office and didn’t respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

Although nutritionists agree that fries aren’t exactly a health food, they’re a little divided on Rimm’s portion recommendation. “Potatoes are a high-calorie food to start with — dehydrating them and frying them increase the calories and reduce the vitamin content,” Gina Keatley, a certified dietitian-nutritionist practicing in New York City, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I have to agree with Dr. Rimm. If you’re eating french fries, they should be seen as a treat. A steak fry has about 20 calories each, so six sounds right for a snack/treat.”

Potatoes can be “part of a healthy diet,” but fries “are definitely a sometimes food at best,” Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “In addition, depending on the restaurant, french fries can be fried in partially hydrogenated oils which are extremely unhealthy for your heart,” she says. “Plus, frying depletes many of the healthy nutrients naturally found in potatoes, like vitamin C.”

But Alissa Rumsey, a nutrition therapist and owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness, says Rimm’s recommendation is too extreme. “Putting restrictions on food — whether it’s physical restrictions like ‘eat just X french fries’ or mental restrictions ‘french fries are bad for me’ — is what causes cravings and overeating,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When we perceive a food to be bad or off-limits, or feel like we can only have a small amount, our body senses the scarcity and responds by making our cravings increase and raises the chance that we overeat.”

Overall, Ansel recommends thinking of fries “like cake or pie — they’re OK in small amounts as the very occasional treat.”

If you’re a major french fry fan, you can make them a little healthier at home by cooking them in an air fryer “which calls for just a sprinkling of olive oil but still gives a crispiness that will make you feel like you’re eating fries,” Keatley says.

If you have fries with a meal here and there and you eat an otherwise healthy diet, you really shouldn’t stress over it, Ansel says. And, if you don’t put restrictions on them, eventually fries “become less exciting and you are able to eat the food, stop when you’re full and move on,” Rumsey says.

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