Posts Tagged ‘
fast food ’
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
If your seasonal plans include traveling by plane, train or automobile, it’s likely you and your kids will experience at least a few moments when you’re hungry but find that the pickings (let alone nutritious ones) are slim.
Of course it’s always wise to plan ahead and arm yourselves with at least a few smart, portable, non-perishable travel snacks to have in-between meals (or just in case). A few better bets include nuts and nut butters; unsweetened dried fruit; high fiber, lower sugar whole grain ready-to-eat cereals; whole grain crackers; and low sugar granola and snack bars. But when it’s time for a real meal—and for those times when you find fast food to be among the few (if any) options—how do you help your kids choose the most nutritious, energizing picks?
The following restaurants participate in the Kids LiveWell Program, a collaboration between Healthy Dining and the National Restaurant Association. The program works with restaurants to provide more menu options that emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy and that meet stringent nutritional criteria. Each full kids’ meal (includes an entrée, side option and beverage) includes items from at least 2 food groups and meets the following Healthy nutrition criteria defined by the Kids LiveWell Program: 600 calories or less; ≤35% of calories from total fat; ≤10% of calories from saturated fat; <0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only); ≤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring); and ≤770 mg of sodium. Each side option must represent 1 food group and meets the following Kids LiveWell nutrition criteria: 200 calories or less; ≤35% of calories from total fat; ≤10% of calories from saturated fat; <0.5 grams artificial trans fat; ≤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring); and ≤250 mg of sodium.
The good news is that dozens of chains including Wendy’s®, Burger King® and Au Bon Pain® participate. Here are some the better-for-you bets if these outlets are among your options:
- Kids’ Meal that includes a Grilled Chicken Go Wrap served with Apple Slices and TruMoo Low Fat White Milk.
- Kids Meal that includes a Kids’ Hamburger served with Apple Slices and TruMoo Low Fat White Milk.
Other side options available include Juicy Juice® Apple Juice and Nestle® Pure Life® Bottled Water.
You can learn more about Wendy’s nutrition here.
- Kids’ Meal Breakfast Oatmeal with BK® Fresh Apple Slices and Fat Free Milk
- Kid’s Hamburger with BK® Fresh Apple Slices and Fat Free Milk
Other available side: Apple Juice
You can learn more about Burger King® menu items and nutrition here.
Au Bon Pain®:
- Egg Whites and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich
Other side options available include: Oatmeal, Fruit Cup, Grapes or Watermelon.
Visit the Au Bon Pain® menu here.
Although McDonald’s is not part of the Kids LiveWell Program, it recently announced (as I covered in a recent Scoop on Food post) it’ll offer a side salad, fruit or vegetable option in place of French fries in value meals and will promote and market water, milk, and juice instead of soda as the beverage in Happy Meals. Also notable is that Happy Meals now include apple slices. McDonald’s also offers some favorites under 400 calories. Options your kids might like include:
- Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (I recommend asking for it made without brown sugar or light cream)
- Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait—a low fat vanilla yogurt layered with blueberries and strawberries and topped with granola.
- Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, served with Newman’s Own® Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing (You can save some fat and calories by using only a half packet of dressing).
Visit the McDonald’s® menu here.
Subway® offers Fresh Fit for KidsTM meals that pair Turkey Breast, Veggie Delight, Black Forest Ham or Roast Beef sandwiches with fresh apple slices and a 12-ounce bottle of low fat milk. They also offer 100% juices including apple and orange juice. There are also Fresh Fit® choices (options that can work for older kids with bigger appetites and adults) certified as heart healthy by the American Heart Association. You can see the Subway menu here.
Last but not least, there’s Dunkin Donuts®. Although pickings are indeed slim at the popular donut/bagel chain, Dunkin Donuts® may be (somewhat) worth the trip because of their DDSmart and Fewer Than 400 (calorie) options including:
- Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap
- Egg & Cheese on English Muffin
You can see their complete menu here.
To make better fast food selections all around, you can download the Kids LiveWell App (it’s free) here. It features more than 4,000 menu items served at more than 60,000 participating restaurants across the country.
And for more tips to save money when you shop for healthier fast food, check out this video with Parents health director Kara Corridan.
What’s your favorite nutrient-packed (or at least not-so-bad-for-you) fast food meal?
Image of mother and son having a meal in the airplane while flying via shutterstock.com.
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Although fast-food is often blamed for contributing tons of empty calories to kids’ diets, it’s just one source. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that while 34.6% of calories consumed by kids from fast-food restaurants (including pizza home delivery, restaurant food, and food from vending machines and sports/recreation facilities) did, in fact, come from solid fats and added sugars (collectively referred to as SoFAS), foods consumed from stores (including supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores) and schools (including school cafeterias and child-care centers) were similar to fast foods in their SoFAS content, with SoFAS contributing 33.2% of calories from stores and 31.2% of calories from schools. These findings came from an analysis of national survey data of dietary intake collected between 1994 and 2010 from more than 22,000 children aged 2 to 18.
In another study published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the same researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill analyzed the dietary intake of more than 3,000 children aged 2 to 18 in 2009-2010. Similar to the findings from the 1994-2010 analysis, this study revealed that empty calories account for 35% of kids’ calories from fast-food restaurants, 33% of calories from stores, and 32% of calories from schools. Interestingly, store-bought foods contributed significantly more daily empty calories (an estimated 436 calories) from sugar and solid fat to kids’ diets than either school foods or fast foods. The researchers explained that the highest calorie load derived from store-bought foods was due to the fact that almost all kids reportedly consumed them daily, whereas only 32% or 24% reported they consumed fast food or school food, respectively, on any given day.
When they looked at the biggest contributors of empty calories in kids diets based on location, the researchers found the top sources derived from stores were sugar-sweetened beverages, grain desserts, and high-fat milk. High-fat milk, grain desserts, and pizza were the top empty calorie contributors at schools, and sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, French fries, and pizza were the top sources derived from fast-food restaurants.
According to the researchers, “Efforts to reduce children’s consumption of empty calories must be made across multiple locations—not just at fast-food restaurants, but also at stores and schools.” They also single out high-fat flavored milk, grain desserts, and pizza as foods—top contributors of empty calorie intake by kids when they’re at school—that should be targeted as the new federal nutrition standards for school meals are implemented.
To help kids eat better, it’s important for parents to empower them to make more healthful choices—especially because they increasingly make food choices on their own when they’re away from home. Teaching kids how to read food labels and to identify—and choose—appropriate food portions to meet, but not exceed, their needs can also help. It’s also important to teach kids which foods and beverages can be considered everyday foods or dietary staples, and which ones should be considered as occasional or once-in-a-while foods. Eating as a family at home more often, modeling healthy eating habits and food choices, and offering a variety of options prepared in an appealing way—and getting kids involved in grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation or cooking often—can also help. Being exposed to nutritious foods and learning to prefer such foods, especially from an early age, can help them want to make better and more informed decisions down the road— whether they’re at school, at the deli, at a fast-food restaurant, or at a stadium to watch their favorite basketball team in action. Setting them up for success won’t guarantee they’ll always make the most nutritious choice, but it will point them in a more healthful direction.
How do you help your kids cut some empty calories from their diets?
Find healthy finger food recipes your tot will actually eat with our easy guide. Plus, learn how to make baby food right at home!
Image of happy lovely baby in shopping trolley via shutterstock.
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Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
My recent Scoop on Food Post, No More Soda in Kids’ Meals, sparked considerable online conversation and debate. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and mother of two, I support any attempt by a fast food company—or any restaurant—to offer smaller portions, or more healthful fare. I am also in favor or limiting the marketing of nutrient-poor foods to children who are quite vulnerable to the impacts of advertising on their eating choices and habits. Although I intuitively thought that most parents would support the move by McDonald’s to not offer soda with Happy Meals, many said it crosses a line when it comes to freedom and personal choice. And even though the federal government had nothing to do with the McDonald’s decision, many commented that they don’t want the government dictating what they should or shouldn’t eat or feed their families.
Here’s just a sample of some reader comments when asked if they agree with the change McDonald’s is making on the Parents Magazine Facebook Page:
Heidi M. Fanning I think that this is great! My kids enjoy a happy meal as an occasional treat and they always pick the milk anyway. I like that soda will no longer be MARKETED to children, even though their parents are still free to buy them soda if they so choose.
Erica Lopez Just because it is not listed does not mean you cannot get it. Personally, I feel as though it is a good thing that McDonald’s wants to encourage parents not to serve their children soda. There are not enough children who appreciate and drink water.
Shawn-Joy Martin …I don’t agree with the change. How about a little personal responsibility? Don’t get your kid a Happy Meal 5 days a week and then if they want a soda with it, it won’t be such a big deal.
Diane Pumpido Pallini …It’s not McDonald’s or the government’s or anyone’s business to tell me what I can and can’t order for my kids. This nonsense is going too far.
Ashley Howerton I think it’s crap. My kid very rarely gets a Happy Meal, but when he does, if I as the parent choose to let him have a tiny (because let’s be honest, those cups are tiny) cup of Root Beer, that’s my choice. I’m the parent! I’m so sick of people thinking they have a right to bully businesses into limiting my options as a parent.
Amber Loyd Has this group taken into consideration that they are making it more difficult to practice moderation even when occasionally splurging diet wise…we are raising our son that nothing is off limits but everything in moderation, which is why I support the fact that happy meal fries are smaller and there are apples included now…but now you are telling me that when I do occasionally treat my son to a happy meal and he wants a soda with it I’m forced to buy him a larger size and then fight the battle of not having a “full” cup… I won’t be spending my money at McDonald’s anymore, period.
Breanna Stephens Sure, you can still add a soda for a dollar if you’re really insistent on giving your child that. It’s not taking away your choice just taking it out of a kids’ meal to encourage better choices for our children. We all know it’s not good for them or us. I’ve never allowed my kids to have soda because to me it’s an unnecessary indulgence…It’s each family’s personal decision but I think logically this makes sense.
Victoria Wieting I wish parents were smart enough to not give kids soda on their own but since they are not and I often see kids as young as preschool drinking it, then it’s about time the policy changed.
Amy Sage NO, because it is one of the few times I allow my son to have soda. It’s called “Happy” meal for a reason, it makes kids HAPPY!
Katie Haynie Guess what? Parents who want to get their kids soda will still get their kids soda, but it will be a small instead of the kid size, which means it will be bigger. This whole thing is stupid. What are they going to do next, arrest you for giving kids soda?
Lorisa Griffith It still is not going to solve a thing and all the hype has gotten out of control. If you don’t want your kid drinking soda then don’t buy them soda. Stop dictating how businesses operate because you are too scared to tell your kids no. What’s next? No cookies or cupcakes or Dairy Queen?
Heidi M. Fanning I find it odd and silly that people are complaining that it should be their choice and not McDonald’s choice whether or not their child has soda, because IT STILL IS the parent’s choice! McDonald’s will still sell you a soda to give to your children if that is what you want to do, it is just not part of the Happy Meal. Seriously, no one is taking your precious soda away.
Cathy Vo What gives McDonald’s the right to decide if my child should have a soda or not? Getting my kids a Happy Meal was always an infrequent special treat that included the soda as a special treat, since I don’t buy soda to keep in the home! A stupid/unfair decision on their part!
I have no doubt this debate will continue, especially since similar nutrition and health initiatives by fast food and other companies will likely follow as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related diseases remain prevalent in our society. For now, I agree with Margo Wootan, the Director of Nutriton Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She says, “Taking soda off the Happy Meal section of menu boards at McDonald’s is an important step toward healthier kids meals and healthier children. It doesn’t much matter to me why they are doing it—just that it is good for kids and will make it a bit easier for parents to feed their children healthfully.”
What’s your opinion? Should companies have a say in how you should feed your children?
Image of cola in glass via shutterstock.
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Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
In a previous Scoop on Food post, I asked if you thought fast food was OK for kids. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I know that fast food is not health food. I also know that people don’t typically go to fast food restaurants when they want nutritious foods like healthfully prepared produce, whole grains, and lean protein foods—they go for burgers, fries, and fried chicken. Enjoyed by many, eating fast food contributes excess calories, fat, and sodium to the American diet. Of course one fast food meal won’t ruin an otherwise healthful diet and lifestyle. But eating it often can contribute to unhealthy weight gain and diet-related diseases. And that will inevitably take its toll on the health and quality of life of children, and possibly even set them up for a less-than-healthy futures.
Fast food is heavily advertised, widely available, and convenient—and it’s virtually impossible to ignore. Even my family and I succumb to it on occasion—while traveling or during a busy weekend. But while I’ll always recommend home-prepared foods over fast food to improve dietary intake and meet nutrient needs, there’s some proof that fast food chains are offering a few nutritious options or are otherwise slimming down their pickings.
Recently, McDonald’s vowed to offer a side salad, fruit or vegetable option in place of French fries in value meals; promote and market water, milk, and juice instead of soda as the beverage in Happy Meals; and to create Happy Meal and other packaging that excites kids to choose and consume fruits, vegetables, low/reduced-fat dairy, or water. They also promised to include fun messages about nutrition or well-being in all its advertising aimed at children. This effort aimed at increasing access to produce and to help families and children to make informed choices in the context of balanced lifestyles is the outgrowth of a new partnership between McDonald’s and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation on a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment.
The McDonald’s plan won’t affect all of its restaurants across the country (within the next three years, the plan will target up to ten of the chain’s largest markets, and by 2020, a total of 20 of McDonald’s largest markets will be targeted). Still, it’s a step in the right direction. Other recent steps as outlined in a 2013 progress report include the fact that McDonald’s Happy Meals now include apple slices, the most popular Happy Meal choices provide 20% fewer calories than previously, and McDonald’s customers and employees have more access than ever before to calorie and nutrition information.
In other fast food news, Wendy’s recently joined Kids LiveWell, a program launched by the National Restaurant Association in collaboration with Healthy Dining Finder to help parents and children select nutritious foods when eating out. Two meal options that meet the Kids LiveWell nutrition criteria include a Kids’ Meal that consists of a Grilled Chicken Wrap or Hamburger served with sliced apples and either Juicy Juice 100% apple juice, TruMoo 1% low fat white milk, or Nestle bottled water.
Burger King, also part of the Kids LiveWell program, offers a Kids’ Meal Hamburger or Breakfast Oatmeal served with fresh apple slices and nonfat milk that meet the program’s nutrition criteria. They also launched crinkle cut French fries called Satisfies. A small order has fewer calories, less fat, and less sodium than Burger King’s traditional French fries (270 calories, 11 grams total fat, and 300 milligrams sodium versus 340 calories, 15 grams total fat, and 480 milligrams sodium). No matter how you slice ‘em, Satisfies are still fried potatoes. But having a tasty option with less calories, fat, and sodium (the value size order has even less) can potentially help all fast food eaters eat less when they eat out.
Although many chains are taking small steps to offer more nutritious options, they’re also creating more and more unhealthy concoctions. Seems to me that the noise made by Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and other heavily promoted nutrient-poor options are likely to drown out any positive steps companies take to improve the eating habits and health of America.
It’s up to parents to decide what role, if any, fast food should play in our lives. I say if you choose to have any fast food at all, teach your kids how to read menus, encourage them to order the smallest sizes available, and explain to them why fast food is, at best, once-in-a-while food. Because no matter what headway fast food restaurants make in the future, one thing is certain: eating more family meals at home with nutritious foods prepared in healthful ways will always be a great way to grow healthier children.
Photo of Kids’ Meal Grilled Chicken Wrap via The Wendy’s company.
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Monday, May 13th, 2013
The billions of dollars spent on marketing and the proliferation of fast food restaurants over the last several decades have essentially programmed many of us to frequent fast food restaurants. Whether we’re short on time, traveling, have many mouths to feed or simply want to settle our stress, a burger and fries has come to epitomize the ultimate—and affordable—comfort food fix for parents and children alike.
Although eating fast food is not the sole cause of current high rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other diet-related diseases, it is likely a key contributor—especially among children. Studies suggest that children who eat more fast food tend to take in more calories and fewer nutrients than those who consume less or no fast food. Including more fast food in the diet may be a marker for less healthful habits overall. Perhaps families who eat a lot of fast food have fewer home-cooked, family meals and eat more often—and less nutritiously—when they’re on the go than those who eat less or no fast food.
Despite calls for smaller portions and more nutritious fare at fast food chains by health advocates—registered dietitians, physicians and organizations including the Washington, D.C.-based Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)—there’s evidence that fast food won’t become health food anytime soon. A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at the menus of eight popular fast food chains over a 14-year period and found only modest improvements in the nutritional quality of menu offerings.
In the study’s press release, Margo G. Wootan, DSc, of the CSPI says, “This tiny increase is disappointing, and a bit surprising, given the many pronouncements by companies that they have added healthier menu options, switched to healthier cooking fats, are reducing sodium, and are touting other changes in company press releases and advertising.”
Another recent study published in The Journal of Adolescent Health found that teens who ate from Subway—a chain marketed as a “healthy” one—ordered meals with just as many calories (though they had more vegetables) as those from McDonald’s. Researchers concluded that meals from both restaurants are likely to contribute to overeating among teens.
As a registered dietitian and nutritionist who advocates an “all foods can fit” approach to eating, I have always allowed my sons, who are now 14 and 11 years-old, to have occasional fast food meals. They love cheeseburgers and French fries (admittedly, so do I, though I don’t have either often). But in many ways, I regret having ever introduced my children to fast food in the first place.
Because we live in an environment that encourages overconsumption of nutrient-poor foods (including fast foods and desserts) in oversized portions, from the get-go, we parents have our work cut out for us. The chips (or should I say the fries) are stacked against us when it comes to raising healthy eaters. But instead of giving into temptation, we can take steps to help children at any age–but especially when they’re young and make few food decisions—develop more healthful eating habits and food preferences. Exposing them to a variety of nutritious foods that are minimally processed, serving foods in appropriate portions, and limiting nutrient-poor foods are small steps we can take to help our children learn to appreciate the tastes, textures and flavors of healthful foods. It may also reduce the likelihood they’ll get hooked on less healthy options.
I’m not saying an occasional order of French fries, an ice cream cone or a slice of birthday cake can’t fit into an otherwise healthful diet. But teaching children the difference between everyday foods and once-in-a-while foods is an important lesson. And when you think about it, eating fast food is not much different than eating out at any restaurant. I’d argue that most restaurants tend to overfeed and undernourish us. New studies suggest that we may consume even more calories when dining at sit-down restaurants than when grabbing fast food. So whether we go for fast food, go out to eat or grab takeout, we need to ask for nutritious foods that are prepared in healthful ways and to make sure we eat them in portions that are appropriate for our age and stage of life–and not in the portions that are usually served. And we need to teach our children to do the same.
In a perfect world, fast food would be less pervasive and more healthful. It would provide us with the convenience and comfort many of us need and want with fewer calories, less saturated fat and less sodium. If you choose to give your children fast food, you shouldn’t feel guilt. But proceed with caution, and make sure you include it as a once-in-a-while treat rather than a dietary staple. And if you just say no to fast food, bravo! Kids just don’t need fast food calories to crowd out other options that support their overall nutrient intake and contribute to their overall health and sense of well being.
Although my children are fit, are at healthy body weights, and have relatively good eating habits, it’s too late for me to undo those first trips through the drive-thru. But perhaps you will reconsider the role fast food has—if any—in your family’s diet.
How do you feel about fast food?
Image of kid boy eating a delicious hamburger via Shutterstock.
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