Aug 10, 2008

Improving kids' fast food meals

It's disturbing but sadly not surprising that kid's meals at fast food and chain restaurants are incredibly unhealthy. It turns out some of the meals contain more calories than a child is supposed to eat in an entire day.

I have to admit that we have continued to grab fast food several times a week, despite my decision to explore prepared supermarket foods. But my husband and I have worked together to minimize the negative nutritional impact of these meals. Here's how:
  • We never give our kids the full meal. Most of the time, we don't even order the kid's meal and instead get adult-size chicken strips or nuggets. But even when we do order a kid's meal, we dole out only a couple of fries. And we order a diet soda that we keep for ourselves.
  • If healthier substitutions are available, we make them. This is a pretty obvious one, but is worth stating. Opt for apples instead of fries, lowfat milk instead of soda, etc.
  • The kids drink water. We always have water in the car with us, and that's what the kids get to drink. Our younger son is somewhat allergic to milk, and I prefer that the boys drink organic milk, so we generally don't make that substitution and instead get the kid's meal soda for ourselves and give the kids water.
I don't know how well this will work as the kids get older and have more awareness about the options we're not giving them. Of course, my hope is that by then, we'll be eating a lot less fast food and this won't be an issue!


Anonymous said...

Whew! I just let out a huge sigh of relief! I now know that I am NOT the only Mom in the world that knows better but still does this a couple times a week.

I kind of felt like a freak for not eating more meals at home. I'd love to say it was because my kids were involved in extracurricular activities etc, but honestly, I just hate cooking and meal preparation. I want to be better at it and I understand the importance, but I hate it.

I do think I'd be better about it if I were at home during the day. I have a greater tendency to cook wholesome meals during the weekend than after working all day.

Gina @ MoneywiseMoms said...

I've managed to convince my kids that it's okay to only get hamburgers and eat the rest at home. Then we eat our own milk and apples at home, or supplement with whatever else we have at home. They are happy that we did the drive-thru, and I feel like it minimizes the damage (plus, all four of us eat for about $3.85). Every once in a while, I'll buy a small fries and split it between the three of them.

Anonymous said...

My kids rarely eat the whole meal. Plus we've been giving them the fruit option rather than the fries.

cherie said...

Not judging in any way but warning you - there does coe a time when they will balk at you LOL.

We VERY rarely go to fast food restaurants [that doesn't mean we're immune to unhealthy food btw ;p] and my kids know that their pals go often and consider it nirvana LOL

We use it when it's convenient [like a road trip] or if a kid chooses it as their 'special' treat for whatever we're celebrating - but that's it.

If you are struggling with the cooking thing [or the meal on the go thing] I suggest you try to find some options that DO work for you - some that work for ME include:

Freezer cooking [gives me a stash of ready to nuke and serve emergency meals that everyone likes that are healthy]

Healthier convenience foods [my kids would kill for trader joes teriyaki frozen chicken LOL - I used HALF the sauce and double the chicken with precooked chicken from the freezer [nuked along with the rest] and they're in heaven - I can preset my rice cooker hours ahead to have it ready when the chicken is

Even a few slices of takeout pizza in the freezer can be a quick grab and go meal . . . there are 'better' [note, I didn't say GOOD LOL, but better than the drive thru window stats] chicken fingers and such in the freezer at the grocery store - when I know we're going to have a hectic week I sometimes make an entire BAG of tyson's chicken tenders from costco [that's a lot in case you haven't seen it] and just keep it in the fridge!

That said, the healthier choices at the drive thru are a good plan - mine would definitely consider it the blackest betrayal LOL - but if your kids go for it then by all means . . . that dollar menu can be a reasonable value for sure!

Anonymous said...

When the kids get older, you'll just have to be the mean, horrible mother who doesn't allow them to eat the fries or soda or whatever. Revel in the role and make it your own - that's my childfree advice.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Jennifer - Funny, we're the opposite. We get more fast food during the weekend, mostly because we're out and about and I'm not in the habit of packing up meals when we leave the house. During the week, though, I've usually got at least a rough menu plan, and if I'm really on the ball, I'll do a lot of prep work on Sunday. Hope that helps!

@Gina - And what are we going to do when the kids are older and realize what they're missing?

@ronh - That's a good point and another reason why we don't usually buy the full meal - they don't eat it all.

@Cherie - I know that day will come, I take it as a warning, not judgment. But by then, I hope to be in position to insist on something healthier :) Thank you for the suggestions. As I mentioned to Jennifer, now I just have to get in the habit of packing meals for when we're out of the house.

@Plonkee - Hm, do you wish your mother had done that, or are you glad she did? ;)