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Fast Food

The American lifestyle is getting more and more rushed. Everything has to move fast to keep up with our jam-packed schedules -- even our meals. Most families eat at a fast food restaurant at least once a week and many people find themselves "driving through" several times during the week. The convenience can't be beat, but there is a downside. It affects children's weight and overall health.

Are there any good fast food choices?

Eating high fat, super-sized meals can lead to our kids gaining too much weight. Our kids are taking in extra calories from soda and high fat foods and it shows. Fast food restaurants now offer smaller portions, more grilled chicken selections, kids meals with a choice of fruit and milk instead of fries and soda, and creative salads with bottled waters. If there is no time to cook, you can order healthy items on the run.

Tips for ordering kid friendly food:

  • Order the smaller portion sizes
  • Pick milk or water instead of a soft drink
  • Choose grilled chicken items more often
  • Choose fruit instead of fries.
  • Ask for mustard and ketchup instead of mayonnaise or order food plain and request condiment packets
  • Use salad dressing sparingly or ask for the low-fat or fat-free varieties
  • If you are taking the food home, order entrees only and prepare your own quick side dishes, served with milk, water, or other low sugar drink.

Making Healthy Fast Food Choices

Typical Kid's Meals:

The McDonald's Happy Meal with a cheeseburger, small fries, and a 12 ounce soda has 670 calories and 26 grams of fat. The Mighty Kids Meals for older children offers double hamburgers or cheeseburgers and a 16 ounce soda. They have 850 calories with 36 grams of fat. If your child has a Quarter Pounder with cheese, medium fries, and medium soda, the calories jump to 1100 with 45 grams of fat.

Healthier fast food choices can still be high in calories, fat, and salt. However, they are a big improvement over traditional kid's meals. Encourage your child to have a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger, apple dippers rather than fries, and low-fat chocolate milk instead of soda. This adds calcium and reduces the calories to 530 with 12 grams of fat.

Most restaurants offer many healthy salads. Salads usually have no more than 200 to 400 calories before adding the dressing. If your kids like salads, encourage them to order a salad instead of a burger. Choose the low-fat or fat-free dressings. Regular dressing can add 200 to 300 extra calories.

The food choices listed below are some of the lowest in calories and fat offered.

Healthier Fast Food Choices

 
Subway 
6 inch Veggie Delite      230 calories/3 grams fat 
6 inch Turkey Breast      280 calories/5 grams fat 
6 inch Ham                290 calories/5 grams fat 
Turkey breast wrap        190 calories/6.0 grams fat
Honey mustard Ham
    And egg wrap          230 calories/7 grams fat
Berry Lishus Fruizle      110 calories/0 grams fat
Chicken Noodle soup        90 calories/1.5 grams fat


Taco Bell Fresco Style (without cheese or sauce)
Taco - beef               150 calories/8 grams fat 
Soft taco - beef          190 calories/7 grams fat 
Tostado - regular         200 calories/6 grams fat 
Bean Burrito              350 calories/8 grams fat 
Cinnamon Twists           160 calories/5 grams fat 

McDonald's 
Hamburger kids meal with 
  apple dippers and milk  470 calories/12 grams fat 
Small hamburger           260 calories/9 grams fat 
Small cheeseburger        310 calories/12 grams fat 
Chicken McGrill           370 calories/4.5 grams fat 
Small fries               250 calories/13 grams fat 
Caesar Salad with 
  grilled chicken         220 calories/6 grams fat
Hot Cakes (no margarine)  520 calories/8 grams fat
Kiddie cone                45 calories/1 gram fat 

Burger King 
Tender Grill Chicken sandwich    450 calories/10 grams fat 
Whopper Jr.                      290 calories/12 grams fat 
Small hamburger                  290 calories/12 grams fat 
Tender grill chicken salad       300 calories/11 grams fat
Strawberry flavored 
   Apple sauce                    90 calories/0 grams fat

Wendy's  
Kids meal with hamburger, Mandarin 
oranges and 1% chocolate milk     520 calories/11 grams fat 
Kid's ham or turkey
   and cheese sandwich            245 calories/6 grams fat
Ultimate Chicken Grill            370 calories/8 grams fat 
Jr. Hamburger                     270 calories/9 grams fat 
Large Chili                       330 calories/9 grams fat 
Jr. Vanilla Frosty                150 calories/4 grams fat

Pizza Hut 
Fit and Delicious Menu (1/2 the cheese and leaner toppings)
   1 slice                   150 calories/4 grams fat

Hand tossed (1 slice, medium pizza) 
   Veggie Lovers             210 calories/6 grams fat 
   Chicken Supreme           230 calories/7 grams fat 

Pan (1 slice, medium pizza) 
   Ham                       260 calories/11 grams fat 
   Veggie Lovers             250 calories/11 grams fat

Thin and Crispy (1 slice, medium pizza) 
   Veggie Lovers             180 calories/7 grams fat 
   Quartered Ham             180 calories/7 grams fat
   Cheese                    200 calories/8 grams fat 
   Chicken Supreme           200 calories/7 grams fat 
   Pepperoni                 210 calories/10 grams fat 

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*Sandwiches and salads listed above do not include mayonnaise, 
cheese, or salad dressing  unless specified.  

Where can I find complete menu and nutrition information?

Most large food chains publish nutrition analysis sheets that list all menu items, and show total calories, grams of carbohydrate, protein and fat, and sometimes, food group portion sizes. Ask for information at the counter or go online to the restaurant's Web site. The Web sites often include menus, nutrient lists, and easy to use calculators so you can see exactly what your children are eating and where you need to make changes. Some Web sites also have information about food allergies and diabetic exchanges. It has never been easier to select fast food meals to fit a healthy diet.

McDonalds: http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/eat.html

Burger King: http://www.bk.com/Food/Nutrition/index.aspx

Wendy's: http://www.wendys.com/food/index.jsp?country=US&lang=EN

Pizza Hut: http://www.pizzahut.com/menu/nutritioninfo.asp

Taco Bell: http://www.tacobell.com

Subway: http://www.subway.com/subwayroot/MenuNutrition/index.aspx

We need the convenience of fast foods sometimes, but we also deserve to have healthy choices. The industry is changing because the public is demanding it. Do your part by ordering the healthier choices, so that companies will continue to offer these foods in the future.

Written by Terri Murphy, RD, CDE for McKesson Provider Technologies.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-26
Last reviewed: 2006-09-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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