Healthy Children - May 2013


A Healthful Happy Meal

While fast food may be a convenient and inexpensive way to eat on the go, try choosing healthier options when making the occasional drive-thru detour.

With around one-third of U.S. children ages 4 to 19 consuming fast food every day, childhood obesity and other weight-related issues continue to increase.

“If you’re hungry and in a hurry, eating healthfully can quickly become a challenge,” says Tara Todd, registered dietitian at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “When you’re trying to choose between certain fast food franchises, it’s important to consider the menu options. While some offer a healthful menu, others may be less accommodating.”

A Fast Food Reality Check

With thousands of fast food chains around the United States, it’s likely that your child has been captivated by fast food marketing ploys. While fast food is okay in moderation, try ordering a kids’ meal with fewer than 500 calories and 25 grams of fat.

“Eating smaller portions and substituting fruit for fries and milk for soda can reduce your child’s caloric intake,” Todd says. “Never supersize value meals, and try choosing healthful options such as chicken salads, junior burgers, fruit cups or yogurt.”

Whether you’re picking up fast food due to a hectic schedule or simply because your child wants it, ensure your child understands that fast food should be an occasional treat.

“Teach your child the importance of healthful eating, but never send the message that eating food is bad,” Todd says. “There isn’t a problem with occasionally eating fast food, but make sure you have done your homework and know how to stay within a calorie budget. Most fast food restaurants have online nutrition information you can access before you head out to dinner. Remember the 500-calorie rule!”