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The Best Fast Food For Kids

Healthy Fast Food Choices For Kids on the Go

Gone are the days when McDonald's and Burger King were the only fast-food options for families looking for lunch on the run. Now parents have a plenty of choices when striving to feed kids quickly, without sacrificing quality and nutrition in the process.

But beware of hidden pitfalls, like seemingly healthy meals that are actually loaded with fat and calories or lacking all nutritional value. We break down what's best to buy and what to skip to keep little ones' engines fueled.

California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin
A parent favorite for its signature flatbread and wide variety of sandwiches, soups, and salads, Cosi also offers a special kids menu. While it's fairly basic, appealing offerings include a gooey grilled ham and cheese, PB&J, and a turkey sandwich. There are also pizza and dessert options.
What to Pick
The low-cal turkey sandwich with a side of carrots is your best bet, but any of the sandwiches stay within a reasonably healthy and well-balanced nutritional range.
What to Skip
With a whopping 777 calories and 50 grams of fat, the Mississippi Mud Pie is an unnecessary indulgence for kids and parents alike. If they're craving something sweet, opt instead for a raisin oatmeal cookie — it's big enough to share.

Three more healthy fast options.

Au Bon Pain
Alabama, Connecticut, Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin
A French-inspired bistro with a focus on health and nutrition (Health magazine named it one of America's healthiest restaurants), Au Bon Pain has something to suit just about every taste. Kid-specific options include a cheese or turkey sandwich on farmhouse rolls, a grilled chicken sandwich on multigrain, and macaroni and cheese.
What to Pick
The grilled chicken on multigrain bread is a protein-packed option that's sure to keep your little one satiated all afternoon. For a snack to go, check out ABP's "Portions" offerings, which include smaller servings of nutritious snacks like hummus and cucumbers; cheddar, fruit, and crackers; and apples, blue cheese, and cranberries.
What to Skip
At 560 calories and 35 grams of fat, the macaroni and cheese. While its gooey goodness appeals to little ones, and it does serve up a generous portion of calcium and carbs, there are a bevy of better-balanced options to choose from here.

Pret a Manger
New York, Washington DC, Chicago
The ultimate grab-and-go, Pret a Manger's food is made fresh throughout the day in the same location where it's served. While there isn't a separate kids menu, basic sandwiches like classic Cheddar and tomato, hummus and veggies, and chicken and bacon are likely to appeal to little taste buds.
What to Pick
Any of Pret's "Slim" sandwiches are the perfect size for kiddie appetites. They're also likely to find something that appeals to them on the soup menu, which includes a rotation of options like chicken noodle, broccoli Cheddar, and turkey chili. The premise here is that little ones can select from the same menu as mom and dad, just in smaller portions.
What to Skip
It's more or less all healthy stuff, so give them some freedom in choosing what they like here. Since fresh fruit is always available as a side, steer little hands toward that instead of chips or popcorn.

Baja Fresh
New York, Washington DC, Chicago
A relatively fresh approach to Baja-style Mexican cuisine, Baja Fresh offers a variety of options — some good for you, some not so good for you. There is a dedicated kids menu, which helps with portion control.
What to Pick
The mini bean and cheese burrito with charbroiled chicken. While it's high in calories (590), it's free of trans fats and packs plenty of fiber, protein, and calcium.
What to Skip
Mini chicken taquitos: avoiding fried foods is always wise for little tummies. And gear them toward milk or juice in their drink selection. Soda is offered as a kids meal option but probably shouldn't be!

Image Source: Thinkstock
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