Since my family has been making some new food choices in hopes of living a longer/healthier life we have adopted a few “food rules.” Make no mistake, we ENJOY eating, we eat meat, AND we live on a budget – but we are not deprived. This may or may not be similar to your life style… and that is okay. But, here I will share a rule that we have adopted. You can adopt this rule too, or not. Either way, it will be okay with me. =)
Eating Out… Is There Good Fast Food?
In our fast paced life it is a fact of life that there are times when the only way to sustain ourselves is through fast food. We try very hard to stay away from fast food by preparing meals and freezing them, having quick/no thaw meals up our sleeves, keeping our schedules as thinned out as possible (not over sheduling ourselves and get involved with too many outside activities), and cooking most meals at home. But, the fact of the matter is, sometimes you just have to grab food away from home.
So, what is a parent to do when you’ve tried so hard to feed your family wholesomely and then you succumb to the powers of fast food? Do you throw caution to the wind and try to not think about the chemicals and preservatives in your food…just for one day? Maybe. But, I’m happy to share a few tricks and ideas for feeding your family away from home and sticking with your goal of feeding your family wholesomely.
First, there are some restaurant choices that are better than others.
Jason’s Deli is a top pick. They were named the second healthiest fast food restaurant in the country in the March issue of Health Magazine and the second-best, fast-casual restaurant in this month’s issue of Parent’s Magazine. About a fifth of the ingredients used at Jason’s Deli are organic, and the restaurant has rid itself of all trans-fats, high-fructose corn syrup and Monosodium glutamate, a food additive and flavor enhancer commonly known as MSG. Children’s side dishes include broccoli and organic carrots with ranch dressing, blue corn chips with salsa, and apples and celery with peanut butter, each for 99 cents. Instead of a soft drink, kids can choose organic milk or apple juice. Jason’s Deli also only uses antibiotic-free chicken now! And, by August 1st no artificial colors or dyes will be in the Jason’s deli children’s menu or on its salad bar.
Au Bon Pain is another great choice. A pioneer in healthy fast food, Au Bon Pain serves up sandwiches, soups, salads, and hot entrées made with whole grains, veggies, and hormone-free chicken.
Buffet-style Chipotle gives every customer complete control over her burrito, taco, or salad. (Take that, Taco Bell!) And you get to build it with fresh, local ingredients. In fact, Chipolte won high marks for its commitment to organics, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and produce sourced from local suppliers, which is revolutionary in a chain this big.
Panera is another large chain that where most of the chicken is antibiotic- and hormone-free. Panera also has great options for kids like squeezable organic yogurt, PB&J (with all-natural peanut butter), and grilled organic cheese on white whole-grain bread.
If these restaurants aren’t an option, or you’ve just got to make do at a local greasy spoon or other national fast food chain there are a few things you can do to make healthier choices.
- Choose vegetarian dishes
- Choose fruits for children that are low on pesticides (skip apples, grapes, and peaches – go for oranges, bananas, and pineapple).
- Skip the milk unless they offer organic – choose water
- Choose whole grain breads if they are available
- Diners have better options because they offer vegetables – like Cracker Barrel – choose vegetables that are not on the dirty dozen list (skip carrots and bell peppers and go for sweet potatoes, beans, asparagus, or broccoli)
- Think ahead and bring some of your own items (especially for picky or very young children) to supplement. I bring along my own toddler cup of milk, single cups of packed fruit, or toss in my own apple). Restaurants don’t think twice about this behavior especially if you are feeding small children and you’re ordering meals for adults. I’ve never had any trouble.