I’m partial to a cheeseburger. I want all the adults who have ever ordered a kids meal at a restaurant to raise your hand. Yeah, I’m right there with ya.
We typically don’t eat fast food unless we’re travelling. There’s something comforting knowing that no matter where you find yourself, you can always count on the exact same food at McDonalds, or Subway or any other number of fast food joints along the highway or in the airport.
Most times, you don’t need a lot of food. You are in that awkward time frame when your arrival at a destination may mean dinner is waiting for you but you are still 5 hours away. All you need is a kids meal to get you through your journey.
McDonald’s has announced they are hiding the ole reliable cheeseburger and chocolate milk from its Happy Meal menu in an effort to cut down on the calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar kids consume at its restaurants.
Diners can still ask specifically for cheeseburgers or chocolate milk with the kid’s meal, but the fast-food company says not listing them will reduce how often they’re ordered. McDonald’s said that it wants all its Happy Meal options to have 600 calories or fewer and have less than 650 milligrams of sodium. It also wants less than 10 percent of the meal’s calories to come from saturated fat and added sugar.
The Happy Meal has long been a target of health advocates and parents who link it to childhood obesity. McDonald’s has made many tweaks over the years, including cutting the size of its fries and adding fruit. Most recently, it swapped out its apple juice for one that has less sugar.
Panera’s even launched an attack on McDonalds and its other competitors through a social media campaign. They called the Happy Meals “nutritionally empty”.
In September 2017, Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich challenged fast-food executives, including those from McDonald’s, to eat for a week the kids’ meals they sell.
Panera also challenged fast-food companies in an ad campaign in August 2016 to provide healthier options for kids.
Panera has it’s own problems. The restaurant was seen years ago as an inexpensive place to get a good meal for a decent price. It was also one of our favorites. In the last few years, however, we’ve noticed the portions are often very small, there are not a whole lot of low-carb options, and the prices have skyrocketed. Now, while Panera talks a good marketing game, not every Panera entree could be on a billboard for healthy eating. The mac and cheese on Panera’s kids menu has 470 calories, a whopping 1,230 milligrams of sodium, and only 1 gram of fiber. This dish is more calorie dense and sodium-laden than a four-piece chicken nugget option offered by competitors.
So of the fast food joints, who has the worst and best kids meals? Take a look:
Below we’ve highlighted the best (lowest calorie) and worst (highest calorie) kids meal options from five different popular fast food chains.
Best option: Chicken McNuggets (190), Apple Slices (15), Go-GURT (50), Apple Juice (80) = 335 calories
Worst option: Cheeseburger (290), French Fries (110), Go-GURT (50), Chocolate Milk (130) = 580 calories
Best option: 4 pc Chicken Nuggets (190), Apple Slices (30), Apple Juice (80) = 300 calories
Worst options: Cheeseburger (270), French Fries (190), Chocolate Milk (160) = 620 calories
Best option: Grilled Drumstick (90), Green Beans (25), GoGo Squeeze Applesauce (60), Capri Sun Roarin Waters (30) = 205 calories
Worst option: Chicken Little (160), Mac and Cheese (170), GoGo Squeeze Applesauce (60), Milk (110) = 500 calories
Best option: 4 pc Chicken Nuggets (180), Apple Slices (40), White Milk (80) = 310 calories
Worst option: Cheeseburger (280), French Fries (220), Jr. Frosty (200) = 690 calories
Best option: Chicken Strips (220), Apple Slices (35), Apple Juice (90) = 315 calories
Worst option: Grilled Cheese (410), French Fries (280), Chocolate Milk (180) = 870 calories