Everybody seems pressed for time—so it’s not surprising that fast food is a staple in many families’ lives. In fact, about 83 percent of families hit the drive through at least once a week. If this sounds like you, here’s the good news: there are increasingly healthy options at fast food restaurants. All you need to do is learn which foods are the best for your kids.
While every fast food joint has its share of healthy and not-so-healthy options, there are certain foods that rise above the rest in terms of “healthy.” Foods that won’t catapult your healthy diet down the tubes. The truth is, though, one pass through the drive-thru won’t really hurt anyone, but routine visits could.
Here are some common fast food menu items that won’t derail your family’s healthy eating habits, even if they do come from your local fast food joint:
1. Low fat milk. Nearly every fast food eatery offers plain low fat milk, which is healthier than chocolate milk, as it contains less added sugar.
2. Yogurt sticks. Some fast food places include a yogurt stick. This dairy goodie offers your child some extra protein and calcium.
3. Yogurt and fruit parfait. This fruity delight will load your child up on calcium, protein, and fiber. Parfaits are a great side dish for a meal or a healthy snack option.
4. Fruit smoothies. Almost the same as the parfait, a smoothie is a parfait blended together. Try this instead of a milkshake.
5. Fruit. Many fast food restaurants offer fruit slices or applesauce as a side dish. Opt for a fruit side dish in lieu of French fries to automatically make your meal a little bit healthier.
6. Baked potato. Use this as a main entrée and top it with chili for a healthy and filling meal. While the cheese and sour cream may be tempting, they may launch this entrée into the unhealthy stratosphere. If you can’t help yourself, go easy on the amounts.
7. Broiled or grilled chicken. A chicken sandwich can be a healthy option, especially if it isn’t lathered in special sauce or mayonnaise. Go for the chicken and veggie combo (lettuce, tomato, etc.) and order the sauce on the side and add it yourself. A broiled chicken leg is also a good option for kids.
8. Roast beef sandwich. A lean roast beef sandwich is a healthier alternative to the hamburger or cheeseburger.
The classic meal combination of a soda, French fries, and a cheeseburger or chicken bites isn’t the best you can do—there are a lot of healthier options! Be sure to check the options (online or on the menu kiosk) at your favorite fast food joints before you hit the drive-thru.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020
- About 83 percent of families hit the drive-thru at least once a week.
- Be sure to check the entire menu before you order, as many options may not have pictures.
- Opt for low fat milk, fruit sides, and grilled chicken for your little one’s meal.