Teens and Fast Food: Eat This, Not That

Help your teenager make smarter drive-thru choices at their fave fast-casual spots, including Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A and Cheeba Hut.

Teaching kids to choose a whole foods diet over a standard American diet is an uphill battle. Fast food is formulated to taste good. Normally, it’s easier, cheaper, faster and more comfortable, even if it is WAY less nutritious and even harmful to our bodies.

Talking to kids and teens about how food impacts their bodies is really important. If we can teach kids HOW good food assists with learning, sports and mood — three things that impact teens day-to-day — maybe they will adopt the good instead of the easy when it comes to dining out.

What does healthy actually mean?

  • Eat Whole: A healthy whole foods diet actually means you eat REAL food. Food that is minimally worked, that looks like something that is grown and doesn’t have a lot of packaging.
  • Eat Nutrient Dense: Real food has vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and water. These things run the body and impact how fast you can run, how clear you think and how high your mood is.
  • Avoid Fake: Real food does NOT have colorings, preservatives and additives. These chemicals are disrupters. They do not help you run faster, think clearly and be in a good mood. If you are choosing a fast food burger that has all of these things, you are NOT getting the good stuff to run the body.
  • Inflammation Causes Disease: These chemicals also create inflammation in the body. So for long-term health (even if you don’t care about today), you should avoid the chemicals and choose the veggies.
  • Eat Throughout the Day: Another aspect of healthy is actually eating consistently every 3 to 4 hours. That’s how the body uses food. Many kids are what I call “snake eaters,” meaning they only eat periodically and wait hours and hours between meals. This is not helpful for consistent energy, mood and performance. So, eat throughout the day.

In a perfect world, teenagers would grab real food when they are hungry. But, I find that just when kids gain independence, hang out more with their friends and are OUT of the house more than IN, they tend to eat out more and choose fast, easy foods. Which translates to more processed foods.

So, we decided to work with teens to try and steer them to better ordering at their favorite fast-casual restaurants. When your kids go to the following restaurants, MAYBE they could order THIS and not THAT. It might be worth a dinner discussion!

Order This, Not That — Our Recommendations

Starbucks: Eat an egg sammie or egg bites and coffee or tea when you add your own sugar/honey, instead of any of the cakes or a sweet coffee drink.

Chipotle: Choose a burrito or bowl with proteins, veggies and lettuce. Skip the dairy if it is not tolerated, or you’re struggling with acne. Skip the chips (even though they are delicious. The meal portions are big enough).

Chick-Fil-A: Grilled chicken sandwich or nuggets or the chicken berry salad (delish!)—skip the fries.

Pizza: At Healthy Nest Nutrition, pizza ALWAYS goes with salad since it is a delicious combo. So, order the simple garden side salad with your pizza. Also, putting veggies on the pizza is always a good idea.

Burger Places: Burgers (turkey, beef, veg) are a good protein-packed choice. Add coleslaw or other veggie sides. Skip the fries and the costly fried additions (you really don’t need the bacon on top of a burger).

Noodles & Co.: Pesto pasta with grilled chicken (with any of the pasta dishes, add protein and veggies) for energy balance. Asian chicken salad (any of the salads are a good option, add protein).

Cheeba Hut: Turkey or any other sub on whole wheat, skip the chips and cookies.

Panda Express: Order the fried rice with veggies and grilled chicken (or other protein), skip the fried foods. Be careful here. There are a lot of fried foods.

Mexican: Soft-shell tacos (corn tortilla) with protein (chicken, beef, beans, etc.), enjoy with salsas and guacamole. Watch the amount of chips — it’s easy to eat a lot of them.

Japanese: Sushi, sushi rolls, edamame. Skip the fried tempura.

The purpose of eating out with friends is to enjoy the food and the company. It’s easy to enjoy the food and choose wisely for your body—and still have fun with friends.

For more family-friendly ideas, please reach out to us. We have lots of ideas and have a Family Nutrition Program that helps make food engaging, delicious and fun. Schedule a complimentary phone consult to see if Healthy Nest Nutrition services are right for you.

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Due to the Covid-19 social distancing recommendations, we are holding all sessions virtually until further notice. We are happy to call you, Facetime or ZOOM with you. If you already have a session scheduled, please e-mail your preference to Robin in advance.

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