We have all been there. It’s getting late and you haven’t even thought about dinner tonight because you have been too busy at work, taking care of the kids or the million other things you have on your plate.

Getting a quick bite to eat at fast food restaurant is much more appealing to you than going home and trying to figure out what to cook for dinner.

But if your special needs child is on a special type of diet, has a particular food allergy, can only eat certain textures, or your just trying to choose healthier options for your special needs child, you might be confused about what to get if you do find yourself at the drive-thru. 

If you are just trying to find healthier options fast food meals for kids have gotten healthier, but a lot quick-serve food establishments remain a minefield of less-than-desirable choices.

Again, I am not recommending fast food on a regular basis but if you do offer it to kids, make sure to choose the most nutrient-rich options in kid-appropriate portions. 

Try to set limits with your child about what their options are. 

The smell of french fries or fresh donuts wafting through the drive-up window can play havoc on your resolve to order smart, so be clear about your rules for fast food before ordering. 

For example, let your kids know you want them to sip milk instead of soda or have a fruit or vegetable with their meal. 

Allow them to choose between apple slices or a salad, not between a salad and french fries.

Many quick-serve establishments list nutritional content online, so take a few minutes to study the best choices at a variety of fast food joints before you hit the road. 

When you don't have the time to check facts, avoid fried anything or any food smothered in cheese or other sauces, and keep these healthier choices in mind: 

• Salad with grilled chicken 

• Grilled chicken wrap or fresh turkey wrap 

• Plain, kid-sized hamburger 

• Low-fat yogurt and apple slices 

• Oatmeal, low-fat yogurt and apple slices for breakfast 

• Bean burritos or tacos 

• Chili 

• Large fruit cups 

• Small roast beef sandwich 

• Fat-free or low-fat milk (or milk alternative if available) 

• Kids meals with fruit and low-fat milk 

When it comes to special diets/food allergies dining out gets tough.

It is usually helpful to do your research before you end up finding yourself in the drive-thru line. 

Here is in the US, chain restaurants have to disclose foods containing the most common food allergies (wheat, milk, soy, etc.) 

If your child is allergic to corn, however, you are going to have to do some extra research such as calling the company to confirm if the product does or does not contain corn. 

Even if the food doesn’t contain what your child needs to avoid there is always the possibility of cross-contamination. 

Makenzie is on a gluten and dairy free diet and we typically don’t have much luck when it comes to dining out with most chain restaurants unless they have specific pre-wrapped items that do not contain our no-no ingredients.

Maybe in your area there is a restaurant that does cater to people with specific allergies/special diets, which is great, but there are not many in our area.

But the best advice I can give is plan ahead! 

Planning can help you avoid the pull off to the drive-thru. 

Plan your meals ahead of time or stock your pantry with healthy options that can easily be thrown together when you get home. 

Something as simple as an egg and avocado sandwich on whole grain bread with fruit can be whipped together in the time it takes sitting in line at the drive-thru.

Stay on course by keeping healthy foods in the car, including dried fruit, natural applesauce in single-serve containers and nuts. 

On longer trips, take a small cooler or refrigerator bag stocked with fresh fruit, string cheese, low-fat yogurt, milk boxes, whole-grain crackers, nut butters or hummus and fresh veggies to tide your child over or to supplement a fast food meal.

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