The 5 healthiest fast-food options for kids

For many busy families, eating out with children is unavoidable. When you’re driving around with a hungry kid in the car, coming across a drive-thru is like an oasis in the desert. If every day is a hectic mix of work meetings and kids’ lessons, finding the time to cook three healthy meals is a real challenge. But that’s no reason to feel guilty. When you’re in a pinch and need a quick meal for your child, it’s possible to make smart fast-food picks. These are the five healthiest options that offer your children sensible nutrition to hold them up until their next home-cooked meal.

Young girl eating a wrap
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Subs

With a good amount of protein and a portion of fiber, a classic ham sub is a solid choice when you’re on the go. Choose whole wheat bread for extra fiber and add cheese to give it more protein. Whenever possible, pair your child’s meal with unsweetened applesauce and milk to complete their lunch.
One of the benefits of a sub meal is that it keeps your child full without being too heavy. It’s a low-fat alternative to greasy meals that weigh your kid down. With a light lunch like this, your little one can stay active and happy until their next meal.

Chicken tenders

When made from chicken breast, tenders are a nutritious solution with a substantial amount of protein. While the breaded crust adds saturated fat and sodium, it’s still within reasonable limits. If you skip the fries and choose a yogurt tube for your kid’s side, you’ve got yourself a balanced choice for fast-food standards.

PB&J

Raise your hand if you love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Who doesn’t? This go-to item for parents of picky eaters is actually a good source of protein and healthy fats. Also popular among vegetarian families, it’s a kid-approved choice for meatless Monday.
While PB&J is high on sugars, it’s a good way to avoid fried foods when you’re pressed for time. Since everything in life is about balance and compromises, this is one of those cases where you may give in on sweets to lower grease. This old-fashioned kid favorite can get you out of a jam and bring a smile back to your hungry kiddo’s face.

Wraps

Grilled chicken wrapped in a flour tortilla is one of the healthiest, mess-free fast foods out there. Throw in some fresh vegetables and your child will get a good amount of nutrition in no time. This guilt-free option is always best with a side of fruit and a cup of milk.
While this is a low-calorie meal with little fat and lots of protein, keep in mind that some fast-food wraps are high in sodium. But, all things considered, it’s a healthy food for kids on the go.

Tacos

Young boy eating a taco
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If you don’t think of tacos as fast food, that’s because they tend to be on the healthier side. They’re also a versatile alternative for meat lovers and vegans alike. With tacos, you can choose between steak, chicken, pork, beans, or vegetables. Add cheese and lettuce for a delicious quick meal that kids love.
For a healthier lunch, skip the chips and offer your child water. It’s also a good idea to opt for soft tortillas instead of fried taco shells.

Extra tips

When you find yourself at the drive-thru, here are some things to keep in mind to make smarter choices for your little one:

  • Avoid fries. They’re greasy and don’t provide much nutrition.
  • Stay away from sugary drinks. They add unnecessary calories and have no nutritional value. Instead, teach your child to choose water or milk.
  • If your fast-food restaurant offers veggies, don’t hesitate to add them to your kid’s meal. They’re packed with vitamins and fiber.
  • Fruit is another good side to add to your kiddo’s meal. This fresh alternative helps keep their little belly full with the goodness of natural food.

As much as we’d like to avoid it, sometimes fast-food joints are inevitable. The reality is that they’re a convenient solution for busy days, family road trips, or after soccer practice. When you find yourself in that situation, just make sure you choose the most nutritious options on the menu. As long as you don’t make a habit out of it, your kids will be better off with a less-than-ideal meal than with an empty belly.

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