More than 30 percent of our nation’s youth are overweight or obese and many believe fast food is to blame—or at least contributing to the issue.
While some fast food menu items are indeed nutritional demons, over the past few years the Golden Arches and other burger establishments have tried to clean up their act by adding healthier items like salads, fruits and low-fat milk and yogurt to their menus. While McDonald’s shouldn’t be your go-to dinner destination, thanks to these recent changes you can now bring your kids to McDonald’s guilt-free next time you’re in a pinch and need to eat on the go. Not sure what the best picks are for your mini me? No problem! We checked in with a group of diet experts to get a run down of their RD-sanctioned, kid-approved picks.
When You’re Eating Breakfast On the Run:
“The Fruit & Maple Oatmeal with a milk or yogurt on the side is a healthy breakfast for kids. The oatmeal is packed with 100% whole grains and has a hearty combination of protein and fiber, which provides long lasting energy.” -Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN, Pennsylvania-based owner of Eat Well with Gina
When Your Little One Wants a Snack:
“Every so often, moms need a break from cooking or they’re in the car with their kids when the Golden Arches beckon. With just 150 calories and 4 grams of protein, the Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait is a terrific snack for both kids and moms alike. The Cuties California Clementines are another healthy snack pick.” – Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND, a Chicago area registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant.
“For the young kids who are picky about eating meat, a great protein-packed snack is the non-fat chocolate milk. With 9 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbohydrates, this snack can really tide children over before their next meal. The calcium is just an added bonus.” – Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, Owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios
When You’re Looking to Serve the Kids a Smart Lunch:
“At Mickey D's, it’s all about portions. For a smart lunch, I'd get my kids a hamburger or a grilled chicken sandwich with either a side of apple slices or a clementine. A kid-size order of fries and a bottle of water is a good way to round out the meal.” – Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition NYC
“Any of the grilled chicken Snack Wraps paired with either a side salad or the apple fries makes for a good kid’s meal. The snack wraps are an appropriate serving size for little ones and the produce increases the meal’s vitamin and fiber content. Plus, this lunch doesn’t have the unhealthy fats found in fried food.” – Lauren Minchen MPH, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist based in New York City
When Your Kids Want Something Fried:
“When you’re on the go it’s still possible for your child to have a balanced meal. Order your little one a Four-Piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal with apple slices and a Yoplait Go-Gurt. The meal is filled with protein, fruit and dairy, which are all important nutrients for growing kids.” – Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN, Pennsylvania-based owner of Eat Well with Gina
When You Need to Serve the Kids a Decent Dinner:
“When it comes to mealtime at McDonald’s, it’s best to pick and choose your battles. A regular hamburger, 100-calorie Kids’ French Fries, and a Yoplait Go-Gurt is a dietitian-approved, yet kid-friendly, Happy Meal. With plenty of protein in the burger to help with children's development and growth, along with calcium-rich yogurt for building strong bones, mom can order this guilt-free knowing she's giving her kids fast nutrition that they will still enjoy.” – Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group
When You’re Stuck On the Road:
“When I’m on a road trip with my kids, we’ll sometimes stop at McDonald’s. They like to get the Honey Mustard Snack Wrap with Grilled Chicken with a water and a small order of fries. I can’t deny them the fries, especially when I have to be in the car with them for another few hours! The meal comes in at 370 calories, and I usually have fruit or cut up veggies in the car to supplement their meal.” – Toby Amidor, MS, RD nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day