Smartest Fast Food Choices | T+L Family
Published: May 2009
Chicken nuggets or a burger?Onion rings or fries?Some nutrition experts weigh in on the smartest kid-friendly choices to make when highway hunger strikes.
230 calories, 10g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 4g protein
Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with 2 oz Cream Cheese
520 calories, 20g fat, 13.5g saturated fat, 14g protein
"The clear winner here is half a raisin bagel with cream cheese. The glazed donut would simply provide empty calories; with the bagel and cream cheese, at least you would get small amounts of other micronutrients (e.g., 5 mg calcium)." —Shelley McGuire
"These choices are both bad. Donuts are fried white flour and sugar (not a good way to start the day, and people rarely eat just one), and the bagel and cream cheese is like eating five slices of white bread with five pats of butter. Saturated fat and trans fats will clog arteries even in kids, so I'd opt for an Egg White Turkey Sausage Flatbread. With donuts, go for the glazed yeast donuts over the cake ones." —Jayne Hurley
250 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 12g protein
Six Chicken McNuggets
280 calories, 17g fat, 3g saturated fat, 14g protein
"Pick the hamburger—it has almost half the fat of the chicken nuggets, and isn't fried in trans-fat oils. It also has more iron and that little compound called lycopene that's in tomato products like ketchup. Kids are more likely to put ketchup on their burgers than use it as a nugget dip (even better, see if they'll eat the hamburger with a slice of fresh tomato on it)." —S.M.
"Assuming McDonald's really did get rid of trans fats, it's kind of a wash between these two items. People need to be aware of sodium—if you dip the McNuggets in spicy buffalo sauce, add another 960 milligrams of sodium to the meal (sweet 'n sour has much less—150 milligrams). The really important thing here is what you pair them with—this is your chance to do apple wedges instead of fries and low-fat milk instead of soda." —J.H.
Six-Inch Turkey Sandwich
280 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 18g protein
Six-Inch Tuna Sandwich
530 calories, 31g fat, 7g saturated fat, 22g protein
"Unless your child is in a serious growth spurt or is very hungry, choose the sandwich with less fat (and fewer calories)—i.e., the turkey. Put it on whole-grain bread for dietary fiber and essential minerals, and remember that Subway lets you pick the dressings and how much is put on each sandwich (half as much as usual is a good rule of thumb)." —S.M.
"This is as easy as it gets in the world of fast food—there are a lot of choices at Subway that are six grams of fat or less. Because of the mayo, tuna salad has an enormous amount of fat. Bottom line: Pick the turkey, and ask them to leave off the olives and pickles to save on sodium." —J.H.
470 calories, 26g fat, 12g saturated fat, 19g protein
350 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 13g protein
"The bean burrito wins, for a variety of reasons. Dietary fiber keeps the digestive tract moving (this is even more important when traveling, when it often gets messed up). Because of the beans, it has more micronutrients—especially vitamins like folate—than the other choice." —S.M.
"Anytime I get to tell people not to order a quesadilla, I'm happy. It's a big fat grilled cheese sandwich with extra, extra cheese, and you've eaten up to two-thirds of your daily allowance of saturated fat with just one. The bean burrito has significantly less saturated fat and offers eight grams of fiber." —J.H.
Value-Size Onion Rings
150 calories, 8g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 2g protein
Value-Size French Fries
220 calories, 11g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 2g protein
"There's nothing redeeming about either of these, but if your children insist (anything is okay in moderation), give them limits on how often they get to have these types of foods. A much better bet at Burger King is the applesauce!" —S.M.
"Eating fried sides is the equivalent of eating another burger, and onion rings are usually the worst. I say skip the fried options altogether and choose the applesauce." —J.H.
Shelley McGuire is a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, and Jayne Hurley is a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.