I think many children hear negative expressions about fast food, when in fact, not all fast food is bad. There are many kinds of fast food that are very healthy and can be made in a short time at home or at a commercial outlet. Sometimes, the faster it is to make the food, the fresher and healthier it is.
It is true there are many places where you can get fast food containing mostly fillers, sugar and fat, but why not change the whole concept of fast food and teach our kids that what is important is the quality of the food, not the speed of making it.
Kids like to eat “special” food. Usually, eating outside is special and they tend to choose things they do not eat at home. If you do not eat hamburgers at home, your kids will typically want to eat them as a different experience. That is why even kids who eat gourmet food prepared for them by a chef will enjoy junk food the first chance they get.
Eating many different things at home can ease your kids’ need for food variety. Once in a while, you can have a “junk food day”, which will give you more control over the meat in the hamburger or the toppings on your pizza.
Some health-conscious parents are actually very scared of eating outside, because they do not think there are any healthy choices out there.
Healthy Fast Food Options
Here is a list of very healthy fast food (take out, food to go, take away) options:
- Sushi – A very fast food, usually made fresh, close to the sale time, and with a wide variety of ingredients. If you go to a “sushi train”, the kids can pick the kinds of sushi the like and have a real celebration. Wash it down with green tea for some extra antioxidants
- Fruit smoothies – When your kids want something cold and fresh, buy or make them a fruit shake or “smoothie”
- Frozen yogurt with fruit and nuts – A healthy treat instead of ice cream (check the quality first)
- Whole-wheat wraps or sandwiches with lots of vegetables – I make them at home for the kids to take to school, cover them with aluminum foil and say, “Here you go, just like the sandwich shop”.
- Falafel (chickpea patties in a pocket bread or wrap with salad and a thick sesame sauce) – The vegetables, the chickpeas and the sesame are great sources of nutrients for kids and grownups. You can buy some wraps or pocket bread (pita) and chickpeas and make falafel at home. Add lots of coriander and Tahini (sesame sauce) to it to increase the quality of the meal.
- Fruit salads – What can be healthier?
- Salads – Make them special, with things you do not usually use at home, and teach kids to recognize the different kinds of salads. Use tuna, nuts or almonds (especially roasted – yummy), beet root, snow peas, pasta, olive oil, pine nuts, hard boiled eggs, cold meats, cheese – the list is endless! You can get salads at any restaurant and food court and often, you can even mix your own.
- Stir-fried dishes – These are very healthy, especially when you can avoid using Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). You get them fast and fresh almost anywhere. Many outlets offer no-MSG versions nowadays. Some places avoid it completely, so favor them!
- Vegetarian pizza – Made from quality ingredients, this can be quite healthy. It is exactly like having a cheese sandwich with lots of vegetables, except in a different form.
- Seafood and fish – When you avoid the fries, seafood and fish with vegetables are great. You should be able to find fish in your favorite family hangout. Note: before you let your kids try seafood, test them for seafood allergy.
- Many Asian food places have soups and other dishes with lots of vegetables and other fresh and healthy ingredients. They generally offer a great variety of flavors and serving styles and do not require slicing, which makes them suitable for young children. You can also have lots of fun eating those with chopsticks.
- Remember, fast does not have to be bad. Even at home, stick to 30 minutes of preparation. If it takes too long to make the food, it may damage your motivation to cook at home.
In a fast world, when people do not have enough time to do all the things they want to do, it is inevitable that fast food has become an option for many families. However, if you have plenty of fruits and vegetables in the fridge or pantry, you can learn to make food quickly (maybe call it “quick food”?) but still keep the quality of the food. And when you go out, teach your kids to make better choices with fast food, because fast is not necessarily bad.