I rarely allow my daughter to eat the heavily processed, fatty foods sold at McDonald's. A standard Happy Meal, while not the absolute worst fare in the world, certainly does no favor to a child's health. However, I don't want to deprive my daughter of the classic American joy of a Happy Meal, so I've come up with a homemade alternative. It is far healthier than an ordinary happy meal and provides the same sort of satisfaction.
Here's how to make a healthy, homemade "Happy Meal" for your child.
Current Happy Meals from McDonald's come with either a hamburger or a 4-piece order of chicken McNuggets. When I make a "Happy Meal" at home, I use Morningstar soy-chicken nuggets, which are actually very similar in flavor to McNuggets. They are much lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber and protein than their meat-based counterparts. A healthier alternative to a hamburger is a veggie burger (Boca is great) on a whole-wheat bun.
What Happy Meal is complete without fries? Instead of oil-drenched, over-salted , heavily processed french fries, include healthier oven fries in your child's homemade Happy Meal. When I make Happy Meal substitutes at home, I make sweet potato fries and serve them with a dollop of sour cream in lieu of ketchup-- since sweet potatoes are more nutritious. If you do use white potatoes, make them in the oven instead of deep-frying them.
Chocolate milk is one of my daughter's favorite McDonald's treats-- but I'm not too keen on the amount of corn syrup and artificial flavor in their Ronald McDonald-covered bottles. Instead, I serve my daughter a single-serving bottle of Horizon Organic chocolate milk. Juice, diluted sweet tea, or natural soda can also be acceptable alternatives.
For many kids, toys are the whole reason for getting a Happy Meal. You can't get a full stock of official Happy Meal toys to store in your own kitchen, but small, cheap toys are a dime a dozen. Set aside a few toys you don't use or want-- like old party favors, latex balloons, small puzzles, and sticker sheets-- and include them occasionally in your child's homemade "Happy Meal" treats.
If your child is hooked on Happy Meals, offer her a homemade, healthy meal as a fun alternative. Good eating decisions and better lifestyle choices can keep your kid booth healthy and satisfied.
Related Work by Juniper Russo