When it comes to kid-friendly menu items in restaurant chains, what you see is not necessarily what you get. Many of the menu items that kids choose are worse nutritionally than they seem, and oddly, some menu items are better nutritionally than you would guess.
Did you know that Macaroni and Cheese Pizza (not a typo) may not be as bad for your kids as regular Cheese Pizza? And is it possible that a Chocolate Donut is healthier than a Zucchini Muffin?
You won't believe these and other shocking finds about four kid-friendly menu items.
1) Macaroni & Cheese Pizza Is Not the Worst Pizza in America
When I read about the Macaroni and Cheese Pizza at Cici's Pizza Buffet a few years ago, a shiver of ugh ran down my spine. What kind of gluttony is that? Cheesy carbs atop cheese atop carbs. Nothing living in sight and totally a menu item kids would want to order.
Well, strangely I did a little research, and it's not, in terms of nutrition, the worst pizza on the planet. In fact, regular old cheese pizza at some popular pizza restaurants is higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium than this pizza.
12" Cici's Macaroni and Cheese Pizza (serving size: 1 slice)
Saturated fat (g): 1
Sodium (mg): 260
Carbohydrates (g): 29
Now compare to:
12" Pizza Hut Thin 'N Crispy Pizza - Cheese Only (serving size: 1 slice)
Saturated fat (g): 4
Sodium (mg): 550
Carbohydrates (g): 22
12" Papa Murphy's Original Crust Pizza - Cheese Only (serving size: 1 slice)
Saturated fat (g): 5
Sodium (mg): 460
Carbohydrates (g): 25
Can you believe it? Maybe Papa Murphy's hopes you can burn those extra calories with all that Taking and Baking. Not sure.
2) The Vegetable Isn't Always Healthier Than the Chocolate
Don't go pushing vegetables and high-fiber nuts on your kids in the Starbucks bakery. You'll be steering them wrong. In fact, if you can believe it, you might want to steer them right on back to the chocolate donut they've been begging for instead.
Starbucks Zucchini Walnut Muffin
Saturated fat (g): 2.5
Sodium (mg): 480
Carbohydrates (g): 52
Starbucks Double Fudge Mini Doughnut
Saturated fat (g): 3
Sodium (mg): 170
Carbohydrates (g): 16
Hmm, this doesn't leave much of an argument for the vegetable, now does it?
3) Mini Cheeseburgers Do Not Add Up to Mini Calories
Applebee's Kids Mini Cheeseburgers (2)
Saturated Fat (g): 15
Sodium (mg): 1,100
Carbohydrates (g): 47
Denny's Slap Shot Sliders (2)
Saturated Fat (g): 12
Sodium (mg): 930
Carbohydrates (g): 43
Ruby Tuesday Kids Turkey Minis
Fat (g): 27 (total fat; they do not report saturated fat)
Sodium (mg): 1,651
Carbohydrates (g): 47
Ay carumba! 730 calories for Applebee's MINI cheeseburgers for kids. Adult sliders, often ordered by tweens and teens, will run your kid over 1,200 calories at Applebee's. Calories are a lot less on those turkey sliders at Ruby Tuesday, but would you look at the sodium? I guess it takes a lot of salt to make a turkey-based slider worth eating.
4) Yes, Your Kids Can Surpass Their Daily Recommended Allowance in One Breakfast
And now, check out what I just found clicking on their BREAKFAST MENU options. The Caramel Cinnamon Swirl French Toast, which is a cinnamon roll split in half and prepared like French toast and served with sweetened Philadelphia whipped cream cheese, warm caramel topping, new Maple Syrup ice cream, and whipped topping.
Yep, your kids can get more than their daily recommended calories, saturated fat, and sodium with this breakfast pick. Hmm, Friendly's wins again -- or loses.
Friendly's Caramel Cinnamon Swirl French Toast
Saturated fat (g): 28
Sodium (mg): 1,610
Carbohydrates (g): 374
Do you consider these kid-friendly menu findings as shocking as we do?