Healthy and Unhealthy Choices at Fast Food Restaurants

Many of the fast-food restaurants where teenagers like to gather offer not only high-fat burgers and fries but also a selection of healthy alternatives.

  • A chicken fajita instead of a breaded chicken sandwich
  • A lean burger instead of an outsized special with lots of fat-laden trimmings
  • A baked potato instead of high-fat french fries
  • A main-course salad from the salad bar with low-fat dressing
  • Nonfat frozen yogurt with a fresh fruit topping instead of an ice cream sundae or a large wedge of pie
  • Water or a low-fat milkshake instead of soda or a regular shake

Still, fast-food restaurants have unhealthy features as well, including

  • The food is high in fat and carbohydrates.
  • The portions are large, so meals may contain as many calories as adolescents need in a whole day.
  • The sodium content in some meals may be more than what teens need in a day.
  • A large soda may contain 17 teaspoons of sugar.

Teenagers will eat pizza even when they turn down almost any other food. Luckily, pizza can be a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, protein, and a little fat—if it’s garnished with vegetables such as tomato sauce, mushrooms, eggplant, and peppers instead of high-fat toppings such as sausage, pepperoni, and extra cheese.

Last Updated
Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)

        The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.