Fast Food Facts: How to Keep Your Kids Healthy on the Run

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • I remember when I used to take my son to McDonald's as a "treat." When he was elementary school aged, we probably went a couple of times a month. Back then, I didn't worry with the nutritional value of it because, one, the childhood obesity issue wasn't as talked about, two, I didn't feel twice a month would hurt anything, and three, we simply didn't have the money to eat out.

    Even today, we don't eat fast food very much; weekends, now and then, usually a pizza, most of the time. It helps I guess that I love to cook and when cooking at home, I can usually control our fat and calorie intake (whether my family knows that or not, is unknown to me). But, eating fast food as a mainstay in the household isn't a good choice, in my opinion. Now a study out this week backs up what I think most of us already knew.

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    A nonprofit public health group released a report that says the nation's top restaurant chains offer slim selections for healthy meal choices for kids. It goes on to say nearly every possible combination of kids' meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Sonic, Jack in the Box and Chick-fil-A are too high in calories.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest looked into the nutrional quality of kids' meals at 13 major restaurant chains and found 93 percent of the 1,474 possible choices exceed 430 calories. It says that amount is one-third of what the National Institute of Medicine recommends that children ages 4 to 8 should have in one day.

    What, of course, concerns me, is the health risks to this behavior because the report also found that 45 percent of children's meals exceed recommendations for saturated and trans fats. It also found that 86 percent of children's meals are high in sodium. It's already been found that high fat intake can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

    There are ways to cut fat if you really set your mind to it. I use the same mentality when ordering for my kids as I do when ordering for myself. We may order burgers, but hold the cheese and mayo. We opt for no french fries and also drink water instead of high-calorie sodas. The grillled chicken sandwiches are also a good choice, just hold the high-calorie honey mustard sauce and mayo. My son won't eat salads, but what I do when ordering salads for myself is dump the dressing on the side instead of all over the salad. If I use it more as a dipping sauce, I find I don't even eat half of the dressing serving (depending on the dressing, this is typically the calorie buster when ordering a heathly salad).

    Now as a family, we probably eat out the most while on vacation and then we try to find a Subway when we need something "fast." This is where, not only the report, but me as a mom have found the best options for healthy meal choices. They have fruit and yogurt for sides and the baked chips. Now if I could only stay away from their chocolate chip cookies!! I guess every once in awhile won't hurt, though.Wink


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Published On: August 12, 2008