The Healthiest Fast-Food Kids' Meals May Surprise You

This list ranks the best and worst choices for fast-food meals for your family based on calories.

kids eating fast food
Photo: Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock

When we were growing up, the menu items for kids at fast-food restaurants were limited to hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and French fries. Now, with the childhood obesity crisis facing this country, healthier options are available at quick-serve spots that previously would have never been associated with anything but grease.

Insider recently ranked the healthiest and unhealthiest fast-food meals for kids based on caloric value. "We calculated the calorie counts of every possible meal combination on each kids' menu and then averaged them," the site explains about its methodology.

Not surprisingly, Subway topped the list as the healthiest place to take your kids to eat when you need a meal fast. The average combo for kids consists of a three-inch sandwich, apples, and milk, clocking in at just 372 calories.

Here's how the rest of your fav fast-food spots ranked on Insider's list:

#2 - Burger King. Wait, what? But yes, Burger King's offering for little ones of chicken tenders, apple fries, and low-fat milk is only about 390 calories, and it even has healthier breakfast items for kids, according to Insider.

#3 - Taco Bell. If you want to "think outside the bun" but keep the kids' meals somewhat healthy (and inexpensive!), Taco Bell actually isn't the worst choice you could make. The healthiest option of a crunchy taco, cinnamon twists, and juice is less than 400 calories.

#4 - Chick-fil-A. Interestingly, this family-friendly fast-food joint is less healthy than Taco Bell when it comes to calories. Its average kids' meal is 441 calories, which is dozens more than healthier options like Subway and even Burger King. Insider also points out that some of its offerings are smaller portion-wise than lower calorie choices at other restaurants on the list. Say what?

#5 - KFC. Colonel Sanders' kids' meals are on par with Chick-fil-A's calorie wise, at about 450. Insider notes that KFC offers the most options out of the fast-food restaurants included in its study.

#6 - Wendy's. Kids will consume an average of 500 calories when you eat at Wendy's; more if they order a Frosty.

#7 - McDonald's. Perhaps the most popular fast-food restaurant of all ranks seventh on this list, which is interesting given McDonald's recent efforts to position itself as a healthy choice. But whether kids pick chicken nuggets or a burger, fries or apple dippers, and a drink, they may still consume 527 calories on average.

#8 - Sonic. A Texas toast grilled cheese plus a side and drink is a whooping 740 calories at Sonic! The average meal is 556. Yikes!

#9 - Quizno's. This sandwich spot may seem like a healthier choice than McDonald's, but it isn't, according to Insider. The average meal for the kiddos is over 600 calories, nearly twice what they'll consume at similar spot Subway. Thick bread and loaded-on melted cheese is to blame.

And drum roll, please... The unhealthiest fast-food restaurant is Dairy Queen, where the average meal for munchkins is 737 calories. When you consider that kids ages 3 and younger need only consume about 1,200 calories daily, and kids ages 4-6 need about 1,500 calories a day, that number seems out of control.

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But if you are like me, and you only serve your kids fast food a few times a year...then who really cares? If fast food is more a part of your weekly dinner routine, this list will hopefully help you make the healthiest choices possible for your kids.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.

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