10 Fast Food Kids' Meals—Ranked from Best to Worst
Kids are incredibly impressionable—bad eating habits learned in childhood can carry into adulthood, so it's important that children learn healthy eating habits at a young age to prevent chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes later in life. Fast food is a large contributor to the increasing obesity rates in children, which is why we thought it was crucial to identify the best and worst kids' food options.
So the next time you don't have time to whip up a meal and have to resort to a fast-food drive-thru, we hope you can refer to this simple guide so that can you feel confident that you're ordering a healthy meal for your child.
Methodology: In order to separate the best kids' meals from the worst, we ranked primarily off of calories. For our ranking, any kids' meal combo that clocked in at 400 calories or below made the best list, while those that exceeded that figure made the worst. We also factored in other nutritionals, such as saturated fat, sodium, and sugar content.
Now, here are 10 fast-food kids' meals, ranked from best to worst.
Subway Mini Black Forest Ham Sandwich and Applesauce
We did not factor in the milk here, but even if you added it in, this would still be the most nutritious fast-food kids' meal you can buy. Why? This Subway meal offers 11 grams of protein, which will help keep your child full. The sandwich itself is low in calories and offers fresh vegetables on top of the ham, and the mini size is a more manageable meal for your kiddo. Plus, the applesauce is a sweet treat for them to eat after!
Arby's Chicken Tender 'n Cheese Slider
Arby's is known for its roast beef sandwiches, but did you know they also offer chicken sandwiches and sliders, too? On the kids' menu, you'll find this fun little sandwich—a chicken tender made into a slider. While this may not seem like the most nutritious option, we did want to point out that if your child wanted to have a little fried food, this portion size will offer them a substantial amount of protein without adding a lot of saturated fat. The sodium content could be better, but it's not a complete dealbreaker for us in this circumstance. They can enjoy it by itself or with a side of Tree Top Applesauce for an additional 45 calories.
Chick-Fil-A Kids' Meal
For just 330 calories, kids can sink their teeth into four pieces of chicken nuggets, applesauce (or fresh fruit), and their choice of either 1 percent chocolate or regular milk. Even when we factor in applesauce and chocolate milk, the nutrition for this particular Chick-Fil-A's kids meal combo is still reasonable. Chicken nuggets are always a go-to kids' choice, so we're happy to see this one isn't too unhealthy if you're out at a fast-food restaurant.
Burger King PB&J Jamwich With Applesauce
Peanut butter jelly time! At Burger King, picky eaters can order a crustless PB&J sandwich with applesauce and still receive a good source of protein and healthful fat. Not to mention, they avoid consuming fried foods! A true rarity when it comes to fast food meal options. This sandwich might be an unexpected choice, but there are plenty of meal options to stay far away from!
McDonald's 4-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal
Are you surprised that McDonald's Happy Meal made the top five? The classic red bow with golden arch handles houses four pieces of Chicken McNuggets, kid-size fries, 1 percent low-fat milk jug, and apple slices. At just under 400 calories and less than five grams of saturated fat, we would consider this to be a harmless kids meal, especially for a fast food place.
Popeyes Chicken Leg with Fries Kids' Meal
Popeyes kids' meal needs a nutrition makeover. This combo will wipe out almost half your child's daily needs of sodium, and that's for a meal that falls under 500 calories! Not to mention that the saturated fat content is way too high for a lunch of this small size.
Dairy Queen Kids' Meal Combo
Our biggest concern with this kids' meal combo from Dairy Queen is the trans fat and high sugar content, largely due to the ice cream cone. After all, how could you go to DQ and not order a soft-serve vanilla cone?
Wendy's Grilled Chicken Wrap
If you ordered the wrap from Wendy's all by itself, your child would have a reasonably healthy lunch. However, if made into a combo with a junior size box of French fries, apple slices, and a glass of fruit punch, you can see how the calories, sodium, and sugar contents drastically increase.
Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich Kids' Meal
At Jack in the Box, a child may be tempted to order the chicken sandwich with a kids' size box of curly fries, and while the calorie count is rather low, the sodium content is sky-high.
Sonic Jr. Burger
A junior burger with fries and milk? That will be over 700 calories, half a gram of trans fat, over 1,500 milligrams of sodium, and more than 35 grams of sugar. Sorry Sonic, but this is the farthest thing from a healthy kids' meal!