Many parents simply don’t have the time to make homemade balanced meals for their children three times a day. Therefore, a quick trip through the drive thru can be a lifesaver on busy days. However, are Happy Meals a good alternative to chose to ensure your child is still getting the proper nutrients and vitamins he or she needs? Generally speaking, a Happy Meal should not be a substitute for growing children. As with everything we eat, moderation is the key.
Parents should not feel guilty if they occasionally get their children a Happy Meal. With after school programs, work schedules and multiple chores and errands to run, there are bound to be days when something needs to go. When this happens, Happy Meals should be given as a treats and portion sizes should be regulated. If your child eats balanced nutritionally valuable meals regularly, then a Happy Meal will not lead to your child being another statistic in the obesity epidemic our country is currently fighting. If stopping at McDonalds is a must, get your child the smallest burger and even the smallest fries or chose another side, such as apples or oatmeal. Watch for the salads as they can be loaded with extra calories from dressings and added ingredients which takes away from the nutritional value in vegetables.
Pizza can be fine too, but limit your child to one or two slices instead of hitting the all you can eat buffet. Make sure your child eats his or her fruits and vegetables first to fill up on those before digging into the less nutrient rich foods. Teaching your child good habits when it comes to fast food when they are young is key to helping them make better choices in the future on their own. Educating children on portion control can be more effective than completely omitting certain foods, which your child will face on their own eating at restaurants. With a lot of pressure on fast food chains to “healthify” their meals, especially the ones offered and marketed to children, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s are making an effort to have healthier options on the menu, such as slices apples, smaller portions of fries, and low fat milk or juice instead of sugary soda.
The easiest way to teach your child to eat healthy and make healthy choices is to have healthy balanced food options to chose from at meal time at home and then practice those choices when out at restaurants or fast food chains. This way you are setting in place good habits that can be carried on without your direct supervision.
Making better choices when eating out can have more than just a beneficial effect on your dental health and overall health, but can also make for a happier and easier quality of life without the constant struggle against food. Food is to be enjoyed and not feared or hated.