New parents promise themselves that family meals will never be spent in the car going through a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant. Yet, as busy families dash from work to school to soccer practice then to the dry cleaners, this promise is easily broken. Active families still need nutritious and delicious options even when there isn’t time to all sit around the dinner table enjoying a home-cooked meal. These simple tips can help save your family from relying on unhealthy fast food for nourishment:
1. Plan Ahead. While planning ahead is easier said than done, it is the best way to overcome poor meal decisions. Either pack meals the night before in insulated lunch containers or have easy dinner options on hand, like slow cooker meals or frozen home-cooked dishes that can simply be put in the oven.
2. Buy a cooler. This will save you money instantly as your fast food spending dwindles. Not too many items are safe to sit in a hot car for long periods of time. Pack a cooler with bottled water, yogurt, sandwiches, pasta salad, berries, string cheese and other healthy foods that are best kept chilled.
3. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand. When you’re unable to be home by dinnertime, consider offering your kids tasty and healthy snacks to tie them over until dinner. Here are 10 kid friendly snack options to keep in your car when on-the-go:
- Trail Mix (choose varieties that have mostly nuts and dried fruit, and skip the ones with chocolate and candy)
- Turkey or beef jerky (low sodium)
- Blue corn tortilla chips
- Pre-washed produce like apples, grapes, clementines, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes
- Rice cakes
- Nut butters in single serving packets
- Bottled water
- Whole grain cereal
- 100-calorie snack packs
- Kale chips
4. Make Informed Choices. It’s no secret that fast food options are loaded with empty calories, fat, sugar and sodium and very low in essential vitamins and minerals. Start by choosing places with healthier options – most fast food places offer these but the biggest hurdle is actually ordering them. Instead of the drive-thru, try grab-and-go options offered at most grocery stores. If fast food is inevitable then stick to these “rules of thumb” when ordering:
- Make sure the meal includes whole grains, fruit and vegetables – ketchup doesn’t count!
- Always choose grilled instead of fried.
- Skip the mayo and ranch dressing and choose lighter options like mustard, pico de gallo and vinaigrette or light salad dressings.
- Replace the cheeseburger with a chicken sandwich or pita.
Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.