How to make a healthy "Happy Meal" at home

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.

The Entree

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.

The Fries

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.

The Drink

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.

The Toy

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

How to Aid Your Baby's Speech Development

Top 5 Bizarre Baby Products

How to Teach your Baby to Walk