Healthiest (and Unhealthiest) Fast Food Meals for Kids

When you think of fast food meals, especially for kids, three things typically come to mind: hamburgers, chicken nuggets and French fries. But with concerns about adequate nutrition and childhood obesity scares, most fast food places now offer healthier options. Given not all fast food meal options are created equal, Insider ranked the healthiest and unhealthiest fast food meals for kids based on calories. If you’ve got a picky eater on your hands and need something healthy fast, this list will help. Here’s how your favorite quick-serve spots stack up against the rest.


#1: Subway

No real surprise that Subway landed in the top spot. The average kids’ meal offers a three-inch sandwich, apples and milk that combine for just 372 calories. Given their emphasis on lean meats and fresh veggies, Subway remains a healthier option to take your kids to eat if you’re short on time.

#2: Burger King

Burger King at #2? That’s a real whopper of a surprise! (We had to.) Surprisingly, Burger King offers good options for little ones, including chicken tenders, apple fries and low-fat milk at almost 400 calories per meal. And they also offer even healthier breakfast items for kids.

#3: Taco Bell  

For options that aren’t your typical “burger joint,” Taco Bell is a somewhat healthy and inexpensive choice for kids. Their kids’ meal comes with a crunchy taco, cinnamon twists and juice and is less than 400 calories.

#4: Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A proudly considers its family-friendly restaurant as the healthiest of the bunch and yet the kids meal is less healthy than Taco Bell. The average kids’ meal clocks in at 441 calories and in some cases, portions for Chick-fil-A are smaller than the lower-calorie meals of other competitors.

#5: KFC

Out of all the restaurants included within the study, KFC offers the most variety when it comes to meals for kids. Their average kids’ meal is on par with Chick-fil-A’s for calorie totals at roughly 450 per meal.

#6: Wendy’s

You might as well order your child a Frosty when you eat at Wendy’s because the kids’ meal calorie counts are roughly the same. If you stop here, be prepared for about 500 calories per kids’ meal.

#7: McDonald’s

Even though McDonald’s is the most well-known and popular spot, it ranks seventh on the list for the healthiest fast food meals for kids. In recent years, McDonald’s is making a concerted effort to provide more healthy options. As it stands now, kids can choose chicken nuggets or a burger, fries or apple slices and a drink and they’ll consume 527 calories on average.  

#8: Sonic

Parents, you may want to steer clear of Sonic. The average kids’ meal at Sonic is 556 calories, while the grilled cheese meal with a side and drink is a staggering 740 calories. Next!

#9: Quizno’s

Quizno’s positions their restaurant as a healthier sandwich spot than McDonald’s but in reality it’s a far cry from the healthier options Subway offers. The average meal for little ones at Quizno’s is over 600 calories, which is twice what they might consume at Subway.

#10: Dairy Queen

Rounding out the bottom and considered the unhealthiest option for kids is Dairy Queen, where kids will consume 737 calories for the average meal. To put this in perspective, kids ages 3 and younger need around 1,200 calories each day so consuming over 700 calories in one meal is ⅔ of their average calorie goal. Yikes!

If fast food options are a rare treat, this list may not be beneficial. But if you’re eating out regularly and need to know where the healthiest fast food meals for kids are located, keep this list handy!  

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