Here we go again! Despite my best intentions, eating out is often inevitable for my family. With two kids and another on the way, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack when I am not able to serve home cooked meals everyday. However, with nutritional info often buried on websites and in secret books, it isn’t always easy to make informed decisions when making choices for my children. I did some digging to make it easier for all of us! From Chili’s to Olive Garden, here are the best and worst options at 6 of the most popular restaurant chains.
Note: According to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association, kids should have between 19-30g of sugar per day and 1,500mg of sodium per day. Children ages 4 to 8 need 33 to 78 grams of fat daily; kids ages 9 to 13 require 39 to 101 grams of fat daily. Sources of healthy, unsaturated dietary fats for children include vegetable oils, purified omega-3 oils, avocados, olives, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. Saturated, unhealthy fats are found in high-fat meats, lard, butter, cream, ice cream and full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk and cheese. The options below were measured by calories, fat, sodium and sugar content. It did not include a review of artificial ingredients or other chemicals used in the making of these foods. Many of these options, when combined, exceed recommended daily intake for sodium, sugar and/or fat. As always, use your best judgment when making choices for your children!
BEST: Grilled Chicken Platter, 160cal, 4g of fat, 690mg of sodium, 31g of protein with a side of celery sticks or steamed broccoli and to drink: Water or Cranberry Juice 80cal, 20g of sugar
WORST: Pepperoni Pizza, 34g of fat, 1250mg of sodium and 8g of sugar and Homestyle Fries, 190cal, 8g of fat, 710mg of sodium, Kid’s Float 330cal, 10g of fat, 63g of sugar
BEST: Kid’s 4oz Sirloin, 140cal, 6g of fat, 180mg of sodium, 23g of protein; Side: Applesauce, 40cal, 8g of sugar; Chicken Griller is a good alternative at 4g of fat but has 760mg of sodium; Drink: Water or Milk 1%, 110cal, 2.5g of fat, 12g of sugar
WORST: Kid’s Grilled Cheese, 640cal, 32g of fat, 2080mg of sodium, 42g of protein; Side: Fries 430cal, 20g of fat, 970mg of sodium; To drink: Oreo Cookie Shake, 820cal, 39g of fat, 460mg of sodium and 74g of sugar;
BEST: Pasta & Marinara, 240cal, 150mg of sodium, 9g of protein, 2g of fat; side: Side Salad or fruit cup, to drink: Water or Kid’s Crush Strawberry Lemonade, 60cal, 15g of sugar.
WORST: Kid’s Sliders, 470cal, 31g of fat, 1290mg of sodium; Side: Seasoned Fries, 320cal, 16g of fat, 1010mg of sodium; Drink: Kid’s Chocolate Milk, 230cal, 3.5g saturated fat, 36g of sugar, 135mg of sodium
BEST: Kid’s Pasta, 300cal, 3g of fat, 280mg of sodium, 8g of sugar, 11g of protein; Side: Carrots and Cucumbers, 60cal, 80mg of sodium, 7g of sugar; Water or Non-Carbonated Drink
WORST: Chicken Pops, 970cal, 42g of fat, 55g of sugar, 2130mg of sodium; Side: French Fries, 350cal, 27g of fat, 1190mg of sodium; To drink: Chocolate Cookie Freezer, 480cal, 14g of fat, 83g of sugar.
BEST: Kid’s Roadside Sliders, 390cal, 5g Saturated Fat, 620mg Sodium; Side: Kid’s Fresh Fruit; To Drink: Water or Milk
WORST: Kid’s Pasta with Alfredo Sauce, 1250cal, 55g Saturated Fat, 784mg Sodium; Kid’s French Fries, 270cal, 2g Saturated Fat, 1228mg sodium
*Cheesecake Factory info was incredibly difficult to uncover. While a large majority of the menu information is available on the website, the kids meal information is notably absent. According to Calorie Lab, this info is available in a booklet upon request inside their locations.
6. Olive Garden
BEST: Kid’s Grilled Chicken, 490cal, 11g fat, 710mg sodium, 34g protein; Side: Steamed Broccoli; To Drink: Water or 1% Milk
WORST: Cheese Ravioli 340cal, 16g fat, 990mg sodium, 17g Protein, To Drink: Raspberry Lemonade, 100 cal, 28g of sugar
About The Author
Faye McCray is an attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For Harriet, Madame Noire, Black Girl Nerds, Black and Married with Kids, and other popular publications. Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon. Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.