Arizona has a local publication called ‘Kids and Sports.’ Each month they put out a magazine with short articles and informational pieces on getting kids active and healthy. In the recent February issue they had a write-up titled, “On the Go,” That covered some principles for keeping meals healthy for busy families that eat out a lot. They started with a review of an article written by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The findings of their study of commonly ordered kids meals revealed many of the frightening things we probably already suspected:
– Kids 2-12 typically order a meal that contains 1/2 their daily amount of sodium
– The calories in a kids meal can be as high as 1000 (1/2 of their daily recommended calories)
After a review of calorie and sodium content of the common meals, they made some recommendations on where families should go and what they should order in an attempt to stay healthy. Unfortunately, their recommendations were just as frightening as their statistics.
Burger King: Macaroni and Cheese or a hamburger, apple fries and fat-free milk
McDonald’s: Hamburger or 4 Chicken Nuggets with barbecue sauce, apple dippers, low-fat milk
Subway: Turkey breast, Roast Beef or Veggie Delight sandwich on weat bread, yogurt, 100% juice
Woah! Apparently the authors are a bit confused on what is healthy and what isn’t. First, Our bodies were made to eat real food. There is nothing, NOTHING!, at McDonalds or Burger King that can be considered real food. They have to produce, ship and store everything, including lettuce, to the point that it is only a distant cousin to real food. If you doubt that, try to find the nutritional content of anything on McDonald’s website. They talk a lot about how fresh their food is, but nothing about how many carbs are in that white bread bun.
Next, they are stuck in the old midset that ‘healthy’ is based on calorie count and the amount of fat. If the food is high quality and nutrient rich, kids won’t be able to eat as much and total calorie count is not a big deal. Also, we want fat. Fat is a healthy thing and should not be avoided at all costs. You just need to look for the right kinds of fat. For example, milk is actually recommended for kids and younger kids actually need more fat in their milk. If you are going to drink milk, you might as well benefit from the higher fat version, given the fact that it includes higher quality fat.
There are so many things wrong with their list it would take 3 or 4 posts to adequately cover all of them. Instead, I thought I might give you some of the options we use for our family when we are too busy to eat at home and need to eat out. We try to stay away from the Kids’ Menu, because they usually rely on standard and unhealthy choices but there are some exceptions. These may not be 100% paleo, but they are far better than Mac & Cheese from BK
Chipotle: Kids Taco Kit. Toss the taco shells, go with chicken or beef, use Apple Sauce as the side and add in Guacamole for a healthy fat. You can also order pico salsa and mix it all together.
Chik-fil-a: Order the kids meal with chicken strips and a side of fruit. You can order unsweetened lemonade or just stick with water.
Carl’s Jr. (I know, but hear me out on this one): You can get most burgers without a bun, so we order the low carb Six Dollar burger and cut it in half for them. Order it without mayo or ketchup and let them put on only what they really want. If that isn’t enough you can also get a side salad so they end up picking at veggies instead of fries.
Again, these options aren’t 100% perfect, but healthier than the suggestions from the local magazine. Whatever you end up deciding to do with your kids, keep looking for real food, focus on protien and add in veggies, fruit and some healthy fat. Feeding kids isn’t always easy, but hopefully this makes things a little less stressful when eating out.