7 Healthier Fast Food Options for Kids

From Jack in the Box to Chick-fil-A: 10 Better Fast Food OptionsLet's face it. Sometimes our kids get a hankering for fast food, and nothing we do or say is going to make them crave a salad.

And hey, fast food is cheap—if you're not counting the health costs down the road, that is.

But, believe it or not, it is possible to come away from a fast food menu with something that's both cheap and healthyish.

If we're going to do fast food, we figure we might as well make an informed decision. Luckily, researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have done most of the legwork for us. The center researchers analyzed the calories, fat, sugar and sodium in more than 3,000 possible combinations that chains market as "kids' meals," and ranked them as best and worst using a few different factors, one of which was the guidelines set in 2009 by the Institute of Medicine:

  • Preschool children should consume no more than 410 calories and 544 milligrams of sodium per meal
  • Elementary school children should consume no more than 650 calories and 636 milligrams of sodium per meal
  • Older children should consume no more than 700 calories and 720 milligrams of sodium per meal

Eating Out vs. Cooking at Home

Does your family eat a lot of fast food or take out? What healthy options have you found for your kids?

By their rankings, only 36 meals—or 1%, of the combos—qualified as "best." Note: The list they come up with includes the healthiest meals relative to the options at that particular restaurant, not necessarily meals that are healthy overall.

All that was left for us to do after getting our hands on this was to throw in how much these meals cost, so you can score the most nutrition for your buck. We based our prices on restaurants in Seattle, but prices will vary based on where you live. Also, keep in mind that menu options change, and that some items may be seasonal, or only sold in certain regions.

Click the first slide to see the seven fast food restaurants that made the list ... as well as one you should steer clear of.

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  • Andrea

    My friend has gotten food poisoning from Subway three times (he admits he’s an idiot for going back after the first round). I think people should steer clear of Subway. Gross. 

  • This is very interesting.  But I have to wonder if parents are already in the position of ordering fast food if they could limit their children’s orders to the “healthier” options.  I understand that fast food serves a demand — parenting is HARD and life is busy.  That is why Mom Made Foods created super fast, very yummy and HEALTHY meals and snacks.  I think in the big picture, families need more tricks up their sleeves to find and plan truly healthy fast alternatives to fast foods.  Please learn more about our organic and all natural meals and snacks at http://www.mommadefoods.com   Thanks!  Jennifer