Family Favorite Restaurants

Monday, February 16, 2009

I don't usually post my "health nut" stuff on our family blog, but this blog gets a lot more readers and most of us have kids and almost all of us don't want to be fat. This lead me to the conclusion that you might be interested in this information too.

From various different "Eat This, Not That" articles, I have been learning a lot about what is better for you to eat and why.

This specific article ( rated America's chain restaurants for kid-friendly healthy ordering. Some of the results surprised me (see Olive Garden & Chik-fil-a) while others really didn't. To view the full list, go to the website.

1. Chik-fil-A (Graded an A)

No kids' menu? No problem. With every single sandwich below 500 calories, a variety of healthy sides like fresh fruit that can be substituted into any meal, and nutritional brochures readily available for perusing at each location, Chick-fil-A earns the award for America's Healthiest Chain Restaurant for Kids.


Even the smartest kid in the class can still fail a test, so be on your toes at all times. Skip salads with ranch or Caesar dressings, any sandwich with bacon, and all milkshakes.

2. Arby's (Graded a B)

Although the choices for kids are few, no entrée contains more than 275 calories, and the fruit-cup side earns the sandwich shop extra points. Too bad the rest of the menu is so lousy—most sandwiches suffer from spread overload or big-bread syndrome. And breakfast should be avoided altogether.


Lean roast beef is what they're known for, and it's never a bad way to go.

3. Burger King (Graded a C)

BK has only four legitimate kids' entrées on the menu, and none of them—French Toast Sticks, hamburger, mac and cheese, chicken tenders—are particularly healthy. And while the recent addition of Apple Fries provides a much-needed healthy side alternative for kids, the menu is still sullied with trans fats. BK pledged to follow in the wake of nearly every other chain restaurant and remove trans fats from the menu by the end of 2008, but so far, we've seen little action.


The best kids' meal? A 4-piece Chicken Tenders®, applesauce or Apple Fries, and water or milk. Beyond that, there is little hope of escaping unscathed.

4. Chili's (Graded a C-)

Chili's gets the award for the longest, most diverse kids' menu we've seen, and many of the items on it represent reasonable nutritional options. Unfortunately, sodium is a major problem. And the adult menu, where older kids might be tempted to wander, is an abomination.


Choose wisely, as the difference between good (corn dog) and bad (chicken strips) can be 700 calories. On the adult menu, the Chicken Fajita pita is a solid choice.

5. Olive Garden (Graded a F)

There may be some pretty decent stuff on Olive Garden's menu, but you'll never know it—not as long as the country's largest sit-down Italian chain continues to make nutritional nondisclosure a policy.


The low-fat options on the Garden Fare® menu provide only sporadic chunks of information, and only a single option for kids: the 349-calorie Grilled Chicken entrée. Until they offer comprehensive data on all their dishes, as competitors Macaroni Grill and Fazoli's gladly do, proceed at your own risk.

6. Quizno's (Graded a C+)

Toasty or not, Quizno's offers some of America's worst sandwiches, including the 2,090-calorie large Tuna Melt. Cookies and fatty salads don't make matters any better. What does improve matters is Quizno's line of kid-size Sammies—the rare bright spot in an otherwise dark menu.


With a handful of Sammies at 200 calories, they make perfect meals for younger kids. You can double-up for the older eaters—even two of the healthier Sammies will be better than most small sandwiches.

7. T.G.I Friday's (Graded a F)

We do applaud Friday's efforts to offer reduced portion sizes for high-calorie bombs, but we don't approve of their reluctance to provide hard data on any of their dishes. Between the array of deep-fried starters and mammoth sandwiches, it's clear they have something to hide.


The Lighter Side of Fridays contains five items with approximately "10 grams of fat and 500 calories." It's a sorry attempt at transparency, but until they offer real data, it's the best option.