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; â‰¤35% of calories from total fat; â‰¤10% of calories from saturated fat; <0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only); â‰¤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring); and â‰¤770 mg of sodium. Each side option must represent 1 food group and meets the following Kids LiveWell nutrition criteria: 200 calories or less; â‰¤35% of calories from total fat; â‰¤10% of calories from saturated fat; <0.5 grams artificial trans fat; â‰¤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring); and â‰¤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:
Other side options available include Juicy Juice® Apple Juice and Nestle® Pure Life® Bottled Water.
Other available side: Apple Juice
Au Bon Pain®:
Other side options available include: Oatmeal, Fruit Cup, Grapes or Watermelon.
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:
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.
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:
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.