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Fueling Your Kids in the Fast Food Lane

September 22, 2015 Leave a comment

The race is on!  Spring sports have started, activities are abundant and as a parent you are faced with balancing a very hectic schedule. It can be challenging to plan healthy snacks and figure out sensible choices when the convenience of fast food is inevitable.

Snacks can help bridge the gap between lunch and dinner by acting as fuel to supplement your kids’ diet, but not sabotage their appetite.

Secrets to Snacking Success:

  • Keep snacks around 150-200 calories.
  • Plan snacks to avoid snack “attacks.”
  • Limit high-fat, high-sugar foods in the house.
  • Keep serving sizes in check. For example, a ½ cup serving of Chex Mix has 150 calories, but a child can easily eat one or more cups which can double or triple the calories.
  • Pre-portion snacks in small bags instead of grabbing straight out of the container.
  • Serve snacks at the table, not in front of a screen.
  • Involve your child and give him or her choices.
  • Pair fiber-rich carbs with protein. See examples below.
Instead of This:                                                                     Try This:
1 ½ cups of Chex Mix:  450 calories 100 calorie bag of light microwave popcorn and

Light Babybel Cheese:  150 calories

Sonic chocolate milkshake (mini):  570 calories Fruit smoothie: blend fat free milk, frozen strawberries, ½ frozen banana and vanilla for 20 to 30 seconds:  200 calories
Oreo Mini Chocolate Sandwich Cookies Go Pak, 3.5 oz.: 455 Calories Spread fat free frozen yogurt between 2 sheets of graham crackers and thinly sliced ½ banana or ½ cup strawberries.  Freeze, if desired:  175-200 cal.
2 oz. bag of Cheetos: 340 calories  16 Tostitos Oven Baked Scoops with 4 Tbsp. bean dip mixed with 3 Tbsp. salsa:  200 calories
1 cup of ice cream:  320 calories Sugar cone filled with nonfat Greek yogurt and sliced fruit:  150 calories
Peanut butter sandwich with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter and 1 Tbsp. jelly:  380 calories Mini Pizza:  toasted whole wheat English muffin with pizza sauce sprinkled with 2% shredded cheese:  200 calories
1 cup granola cereal and milk:  500 calories Kashi Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt Chewy Granola Bar with ½ Tbsp. peanut butter:  190 calories

When it’s snack or dinner time and you’re running from soccer practice with one child to flute lessons with another, a grab-and-go fast food meal seems to be the answer.  Try to choose wisely so you don’t get short-changed on nutrition and end up with an excess load of calories and fat.

Tips to Navigate Fast Food:

  • Know before you go! Review menus with your children and have a plan of action for healthy choices.
  • Go for balance. Even fast food restaurants offer salads and fruit.  Substitute them for fries.  If fries are ordered, split them among several people at the table.
  • Downsize portions instead of supersizing! Portion control is the key. The average hamburger in the 1950’s was 1.5 ounces and today is 8 ounces.
  • Skip the liquid candy! Order low-fat milk or water instead of sodas or lemonade.
  • Trim the high fat, high calorie extras, including mayonnaise, dressings, sauces and cheese.
Instead of this: Try this:
Subway

6” turkey, ham, or roast beefChips

Cookie

21 ounce soda:  930 calories

Subway Fresh Fit for Kids

4” turkey, ham, or roast beef

Apple slices

Low-fat milk:  320 calories

Chick- fil-A

6-count nuggets

Waffle fries

Soda:  770 calories

Chick-fil-A

6-count grilled nuggets

Honey barbeque sauce or Buttermilk Ranch sauce

Fruit cup

Low fat milk:  300-345 calories

Chipotle

Burrito – flour tortilla, chicken, rice, cheese, and lettuce:  800 calories

 

Chipotle Kids Meal

Kids corn tortilla cheese quesadilla with black beans , low fat milk, and orange:  385 calories

 

McDonald’s Kids Mighty Meal

McDouble cheeseburger

Small French fries

Go-Gurt

Fat-free chocolate milk:  800 calories

McDonald’s Kids Meal

Hamburger

Kids’ fries

Apple slices

Low-fat milk:  475 calories

As a parent, the most important point to remember is you are your child’s role model and most influential teacher.  Their little eyes are on you, so practice what you preach. Don’t pig out when you eat out!  Instead, guide your children toward making better choices. Realize occasional indulgences are fine and can be worked into any healthy eating plan.  It’s not what you do on once every so often, it’s what you do every day that counts!

A Dietitian’s Look: Whataburger’s “Under 550-Calorie” Menu

WhataburgerFor many, fast food is an appealing option when you’re looking for a quick, budget-friendly meal. But unfortunately, the menu selections are typically  high in calories, fat and sodium.

Last week Texas-based Whataburger introduced several new “Under 550-Calorie” options to their menu. These choices will be featured in their new menu design. We asked Colleen Loveland, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Registered Dietitian at Cooper Clinic, to share her thoughts on the new menu items.

What do you think of the new menu from Whataburger?
It is great that Whataburger has unveiled a new look for their menu to make it easier to find calorie controlled options when ordering. It is always a good idea to look up the nutrition information on the website if it is a place that you frequent to see what choices will fit into your plan for good health.

The items that are included in the “under 550 calories” are not necessarily low in fat or sodium. The saturated fat in biscuits, cheese and bacon is significant and the misconception of “under 550” calories may give patrons the impression that they are “healthy” choices.

How do Whataburger’s new options compare with other fast food options?
You can make good choices at Whataburger just like you can at many other fast food restaurants. Often the portion is the issue in controlling calories and fat intake – the kids meal is usually the “right” size. Whataburger is offering grilled chicken options and great salad options. The addition of Low-Fat Honey Pepper Vinaigrette and Low-Fat Herb Vinaigrette would help to limit the saturated fat at the meal.

What are the most important things to look for when eating at fast food?
The most important things to look for when eating at a fast food meal is that the choices fit into your health goal. Total calories are always a good thing to keep track of in order to manage weight. If you frequent a fast food restaurant, print off the nutrition information on their menu so you can fit the foods into your plan.

Also, look at the amount of saturated fat and try to keep the grams to a minimum. Make special requests to limit the saturated fat like ordering dressings on the side; eliminating cheese on sandwiches or salads; eliminating bacon or fried items from the meal; and choosing whole grain breads instead of biscuits and croissants.

Sodium content is usually higher in a fast food meal so balance the rest of your day with more fresh or frozen food items. If ordering for a child choose the regular grilled cheese if that is their favorite, not the new Grilled Cheese on Texas Toast.

Do you have a favorite meal choice from Whataburger (whether on their new menu or previous menu)?

Chicken Fajita Taco

In looking at the Whataburger menu, I would choose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich or the Chicken Fajita Taco, which are both lower in calories and saturated fat. The new menu items include an Apple Cranberry Salad that is 350 calories and 6 grams of fat, and higher with grilled or crispy chicken added. If ordering the salad, I would toss the cheese and use one of the new vinaigrettes drizzled not drenched.
When looking at the options on the “Under 550” menu, I would choose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Fajita Taco or the new Grilled Chicken Melt minus the melted cheese. The breakfast choices have little to no fiber but the best option for me would be the Egg Sandwich and I would bring a piece of fruit from home.

Read the details on Whataburger’s announcement in their news release.

What are your thoughts on the new Whataburger menu?