Finding a healthful, well-balanced meal in most fast food restaurants can be a challenge, but there are always choices you can make that are better than others. In this lesson, young people will explore common fast food choices and the corresponding nutritional information. They will list healthier choices to make when eating at fast food restaurants.
Today’s families are busy and on the go with work and activities. Kids are eating away from home more than ever. To introduce the topic of fast food, ask the youth:
- How often do you usually go to a fast food restaurant? Once or twice a week? More than that?
- Why do we go to fast food restaurants? (Quick, easy, tastes good)
- Ask young people to list some of their favorite fast food restaurants? List their answers on the chalkboard or whiteboard.
Activity: Your Fast Food Menu
Each young person will need a blank piece of paper and pencil.
- Have the youth fold their paper lengthwise into thirds. (A fun way to tell them is to fold it the “hot dog” way for lengthwise.)
- In the first column (left side) ask young person to write down each food and drink item they order from one of their favorite fast food restaurants. Tell them to make sure to include the size they get, such as small, medium or large.
- In the second (middle) column, have them write down which of the five food groups each food or drink item belongs to (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, dairy). Review the five food groups with the youth as needed. Show MyPlate graphic or use our Interactive Whiteboard activity (see What You Need) to talk about MyPlate. If their food doesn’t fit into one of the food groups have them write “extra” instead. Remind them that some foods fit into more than one category. A cheeseburger would be protein/grain/dairy and “extra” for added fat.
Activity: Fast Food Nutrition Information
How can we find nutrition information about the meals you typically choose?
- You can find the nutrition facts on the individual website link including the amount of sugar, salt, calories and nutrients in each food and drink.
- We’ve provided links here to nutrition information from the fast food places kids are most likely to name, but if the young people name others, you are likely to find nutritional information on each restaurant’s websites.
- Help the youth find their favorite choices in the links below, and take a look at the nutritional information that’s provided. It will be helpful to write down calories, sodium (salt), sugar, fat and vitamins. Be sure to watch portion sizes as you compare!
Fast food nutrition information
Pull up different fast food restaurant nutrition information on a projector. Here is a list of restaurants:
McDonalds® Nutrition Information
Wendys® Nutrition Information
Burger King® Nutrition Information
Arby’s Nutrition® Information
Dairy Queen® Nutrition Information
Subway® Nutrition Information
Ask the following questions:
- What size French fries do you usually order? Notice the difference between the calories, fat and salt (sodium) between the large size and small size fries.
- What size burger do you usually order? Compare the nutrition information of the biggest burgers to the smallest ones.
- How about drinks? If you choose pop, the same idea is true—smallest is best.
- Ask if there are better food options available at fast food restaurants. What have they tried or heard about?
- What could you have instead of French fries that would be a better choice?
- McDonalds® – apple dippers (peeled apple slices with low fat caramel dip), Yoplait Go-Gurt, or Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait.
- Wendy’s® – apple slices
- Burger King® – natural applesauce
- Arby’s® – applesauce
- Dairy Queen® – applesauce or banana
- Subway®- baked chips or apple slices
- What are some other ways we can make better choices when eating out at fast food restaurants? Allow young people to offer ideas. Here are some example:
- Try salads with low-fat dressing, use less dressing or try it without dressing.
- Use mustard instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, ask for half the normal mayo/special sauce or go without mayo/special sauces. (lowers calories, fats)
- Always choose the smallest size of whatever you are ordering, especially if it is a menu item higher in calories, fat, salt and/or sugar.
- Choose grilled instead of breaded and fried. (lowers fat and calorie content)
- Choose water or low-fat milk to drink. Juice can be ok sometimes if the portion size is a single serving of four to six ounces and made from 100% juice. (lowers calories and added sugars and fats)
- Choose fruits/vegetable options when available as sides to increase intake of fruits and vegetables to make it a more healthful meal.
After completing the exercises above, have the youth take out their folded sheets again. Using the nutrition information they have learned, in column number three (right side), have the young people list other options for food and drink choices to make their meal better and include more of the five food groups.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue discussing health food choices at home
Additional Instructor Resources: