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Sometimes, fast food is so easy and convenient that you’ll want to give it to your kids. While an occasional fast food trip isn’t the end of the world, it’s best not to fall back on fast food as a regular meal.
We’re not big fast food people - we never really have been. My wife had never even eaten at Taco Bell until we’d been married about 8 years (she’s from Russia so didn’t grow up with Taco Bell). There are many fast food restaurants to this day that she’s never even tried.
Since we were really never into fast food, it’s not something we eat even when we have kids. My oldest son didn’t eat at McDonalds until he was 4 years old, and that was only his second ever fast food experience. His grandfather took him there after asking us if it was alright - we said it was fine. Fast food is simply not something that we eat.
The primary reason that we don’t eat fast food on a regular basis is because we find the taste of it quite gross, and in general, it’s not that healthy. While there are exceptions to that as these places have worked to make their meals healthier, it’s still far from a nutritious meal. We don’t really like the taste of these places, and we’d rather make a simple meal at home.
However, I will say that fast food is really convenient. It’s super easy to drive in to the drive thru, and pick up food and take it home to eat. You can get it basically any time of the day, and it really requires no advanced planning.
Allowing kids to eat fast food isn’t going to be a big problem in general. The real issue is going to become if you feed your kids fast food on a regular basis - multiple times per week. By allowing your kids to eat fast food on a regular basis, you’re setting them up to be dependent on it as they grow older. It is building a foundation of an unhealthy lifestyle for when they get older.
In recent years, we’ve started feeding our kids fast food a little bit more often than in the past, but not because we need to feed them something - I’d rather feed them a basic macaroni, vegetables, and protein meal at home. We have done so simply because they find it fun to get fast food, and specifically a kids meal that has a little toy in it. They also like to play with the kids meal boxes with their play food at home. In other words, they find the experience of it fun - they don’t really care about the food, although they do like french fries.
While we let our kids eat fast food, they understand that it’s a treat, and not something we do regularly. We don’t get them fast food more than once a month, and if they don’t ask for it, then we don’t recommend it. Also, we don’t get any food for ourselves as parents - the kids realize it’s a special treat for them, and not something that’s part of our regular lifestyle.
All of this is not to say that we don’t eat out ever, we just avoid fast food locations that are not healthy options. We have no issue eating at a place like Chipotle or Cafe Rio - both of these locations are considered fast casual restaurants - they are as convenient as fast food, but have healthier choices that we like. We’ll eat at similar type places, and sit-down restaurants (although it’s generally not more than once a week), we just avoid the standard fast food locations as they’re very limited in healthy and tasty food.
If you’re limited on time, falling back to fast food is a simple strategy. However, the more you can do to make your meals at home the better off your health will be, and the health of your kids. Having fast food a couple of times a month is not going to be the end of the world. Once you start relying on fast food on a regular basis for your meals, that’s when it will become a problem. Getting out of the habit will be hard, but it can make a huge difference for your children as they get older.