10 ways to make fast food healthier for your kids

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(CNN/WBTW) – Be it your travelling for the weekend or to spend a week grandma, a lot of parents opt for fast food to feed their kids during travel time. But fast food isn’t always the healthiest option, but it can be a healthier one.

CNN reports ten ways to make the drive-thru healthier for your kids (and you!):

1- Never leave home without snacksFruit, cheese, granola bars, and yogurt are better options than things like chips and candy, and can keep your family fuller, longer. 

“If possible, stop at a grocery store or stock up on healthy snacks in advance, such as cut-up fruit, cheese sticks and yogurt, which will cost less than anything on a fast food menu and fill everyone up while they’re waiting for their food to be served,” said Victoria Stein Feltman to CNN, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Apple to Zucchini, a healthy eating resource for parents and families.

2- Choose age-appropriate sizes for meals. A kids meal is often a good choice, especially because portions are typically smaller. “Beyond opting out for any super-size options, the regular-sized portions at fast food restaurants tend to be large and too big for kids,” Nicole Silber, a New York-based registered dietitian and pediatric nutritionist, told CNN.

3- Encourage fruit over fries. “Adding fruits, vegetables and dairy foods help to round out the meal and make it balanced,” said Castle, who is also the author of “Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.”

In the United States, for example, McDonald’s Happy Meals now include either seasonal fruit (such as apple slices or an orange) or a low-fat dairy option. The Happy Meal still comes with a kid size fries, but you can opt for a fruit or yogurt in its place. Other healthy side options found in fast food restaurants include side salads, and carrot and celery sticks.

But McDonald’s isnt the only one. Wendy’s, Subway, and Chik-fil-a also offer other side options instead of fries.

4- Share a meal with your child. This not only downsizes portions, it helps introduce fast foods to your child, such as a grilled chicken sandwich. Indulgences can be shared, too. “Parents might also consider sharing less-healthy sides (such as French fries or onion rings) and desserts (such as milkshakes and ice cream sundaes), and supplementing with fresh fruit and vegetables,” Feltman said.

5- Pass on the soda. Nutritionists agree that the healthiest beverage options include unflavored milk or water. Juice can be an option, though the amount should be limited, according to new juice guidelines for children: no more than 4 ounces per day for toddlers age 1 to 3 years, and 4 to 6 ounces day for children age 4 through 6. For children 7 to 18 years of age, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces per day.

6- Establish your expectations beforehand. If you don’t want your child ordering fries or you want them to have fruit or vegetables, let them know ahead of time. “A simple thing that parents can do to help their kids make healthy choices is to have a dialogue and ordering plan before going in. This can be done on the drive over to the restaurant. Managing a child’s expectations can be half of the battle and can reduce a child’s frustration and possible tantrum at the time of ordering,” Silber said.

But if you do not like the options available at the location, consider going somewhere first. If you don’t want your child to have a burger, for example, maybe consider going somewhere that offers sandwiches or other ‘main’ options.

7- Decide on dessert — in advance. “Have that decision (about dessert) made before you go so you’re not trying to make it on the fly,” Castle said. And if dessert is an option, don’t police it. “If dessert is going to be part of the meal, let it be part of the meal — but don’t place eating performance criteria on it … like ‘you have to eat the whole hamburger before you can eat the ice cream.’ ” Doing this makes the ice cream a much more valuable part of the meal, according to Castle.
8- Insist that they sit. “I encourage all families to have their children sit down and eat their meal together,” Castle said. “Some of the fast food restaurants have jungle gyms, and kids may choose to run around instead of eating. … They may grab a fry and go back and forth, but it’s important that the parents carve out a rule to have children sit down to eat at a table, with the people who are there with them. They can sit before playing or play first, but at a certain point, they should sit down to eat.”
And instead of ordering and driving away while you eat, get out of the car. It’ll give you time to stretch after driving for miles, allow for bathroom breaks, and just get your family out of the car for a little while. Plus it reduces your risk of distracted driving. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, passengers, eating, and in-car technologies are all distractions… and distracted driving leads to more than 5,000 traffic fatalities each year. 
9- Teach teens healthy habits. It’s true that a teenager can afford more calories than an adult, especially if they are in a growth spurt. Still, encouraging healthy choices among teens can be tricky, since they are often making food decisions on their own.

“Parents can make their teenagers aware of the options so they understand there are more options than a bacon double cheeseburger — like salads, chicken sandwiches, wraps and rice and grain bowls. But saying ‘you should order this when you go’ won’t necessarily work for a teenager and may create a point of contention and rebellion. Inform them of all of the options and encourage the teen to choose foods that will make them feel energized and healthy.”

 

10- Be a good role model. “Parents can influence their kids by making healthy choices themselves and encouraging everyone in the family to do the same, like choosing chicken that is grilled instead of fried and limiting high-calorie and high-sugar condiments such as mayonnaise and ketchup,” Feltman said.

In other words, as with most other parenting advice, what you do almost always means more than what you say.