If you’ve lost track of time and cooking dinner isn’t an option, there are surprisingly many healthy fast-food options for kids. Yes, home-cooked meals with balanced food groups are important, but it doesn’t hurt to eat out once in a while. So hear us out: We’ve cooked up a list of seven healthy options you can offer your little one at a restaurant.
Chicken sandwiches or wraps
A popular go-to at fast-food chains is a chicken sandwich or chicken wrap. These include hamburger bun sandwiches, baked bread bun sandwiches, and even chicken tortilla wraps. They’re also often filled with veggies, cheese, and fatty (good fats!) dressing.
The good thing about chicken sandwiches is most kids like them, and you can easily customize them with different sauces or fillings. Another plus: You can cut up sandwiches or wraps and save your leftovers.
Chicken strips and fries
Chicken strips are another favorite among kids in fast-food restaurants. These crunchy, tasty treats are dipped in ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, or any unusual combinations your little one might enjoy. Traditionally, chicken fingers come with a side of potato fries, but you can always ask to swap it out with a fruit bowl or small green salad if possible.
Fruit bowls, yogurt cups, or fruit smoothies
For breakfast and lunches, you can go with something lighter like fruit bowls, yogurt packs, or smoothies. Fruit bowls usually include grapes, different varieties of melon, pineapples, apples, strawberries, or blueberries. These fruits can change depending on the season or if the restaurant has special deals.
Some fruit bowls are served on top of oatmeal or yogurt, which makes them even more nutritious and filling. If your child isn’t particularly hungry, offer them fruit smoothies packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and even protein powder.
Taco plates or bowls
These delicious meals combine rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, and your choice of meat or meat substitute. They’re endlessly customizable, and you can ask more of one thing if you’re skipping out on another. For instance, you can get a double serving of vegetables if your family is vegetarian instead of the meat portion.
Try a side of chips and dip to share between the family. Just remember: Not everyone likes spice, so start with mild salsa and go from there!
Turkey sandwich with vegetables
A good substitute for chicken and other meats is turkey. Choose lean turkey breast for a healthier option over the deli-meat variety. When possible, fill the sandwich with lots of veggies like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and avocado. If your child is very young, they may pick out the veggies they don’t like, but at least you’re introducing it to them early on.
Instead of mayonnaise and other sweet spreads, go for hummus or pesto for extra flavor and nutrients.
Soup bowl and bread
On another note, many fast-food restaurants serve soup bowls and bread on the side. Others even serve soup in a bread bowl, which can be very appealing to younger kids. It’s a fun way to get them to eat veggies, get their carbs in, and finish their meal.
Tomato soup is common, but other popular soups are clam chowder, minestrone, chicken noodle, broccoli and cheddar, and potato soup. Whenever possible, choose soups that have less salt and sugar contents.
Cheese quesadillas are a simple treat that’s a hit with children. Warm, cheesy, and easy to eat, it’s a rare kid that will say no to a quesadilla. You might also add in meat for protein. A typical fast-food quesadilla has cheddar, but more authentic Mexican places use Oaxaca, asadero, and Manchego cheese. Mozzarella is a good substitute.
The tortilla is usually made of corn or flour. Note that corn tortillas contain more fiber and are lower in carbs, while flour tortillas have more fat and iron. While corn is generally the healthier option, flour tortillas are good in moderation.
Fast food for kids is sometimes unavoidable. We get busy, we get tired, and some days we just can’t cook meals. Other times, we might eat out with friends and family to celebrate or just to get together. Luckily, there are many kids’ meals in fast-food restaurants that are packed with essential nutrients and vitamins. Next time you’re poring over the menu, remember the seven healthy fast food options we went over on this list.
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