Alternative to Fast Food for Children – Make Your Own Nutrional Happy Meals at Home

Today’s society is a fast food one. It seems that every time I am out and about, my children are begging me to stop at McDonalds. Through television advertising during seemingly innocuous cartoons, my children have grown up demanding certain brands. The other day, my 6 year old told me she wanted to eat at McDonalds. I asked her why there? She told me flat out that it had Hello Kitty toys for its happy meals! A light bulb went off in my head as I realized that she really didn’t seem to eat much of her meal, it was the toy that she was most interested in after all. A quick look in my 2-1/2 year old’s Happy Meal box told me that he, too, was more interested in the toy and not the Chicken McNuggets.

It was then that I hatched an idea of fast food look-a-likes. My children wouldn’t care what the food was, just so long as there was a toy involved. This would be a great way to sneak a little extra nutrition into their growing bodies and save me the expense of a fast food meal that goes uneaten. Here are a few ideas to help you you’re your own Happy Meals at home:

French fries:

It is very easy to peel an apple and then cut it in long strips to resemble French fries. Or substitute carrot sticks or celery sticks if your child can eat them. Make simple letters like the letters “A”, “E”, “F”, “H”, etc. anything that you can make out of the sticks. Ask your child which is which and once he or she identifies it, have them eat that letter. Cutting a melon such as honeydew or cantaloupe into French fry sticks is also a nice treat, provided the fruit isn’t overripe.


Milk is a good choice and flavoring it with a Hershey’s Syrup yourself will give you some control as to how much sugar your child consumes. Instead of a milk shake, substitute a smoothie instead using fruit that you have on hand. A smoothie will give your child an extra serving of fruit. A Capri Sun Roaring Waters juice pack is also another smart choice, as it has only 35 calories.

Sandwich ideas:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: Cut with a cookie cutter into your child’s favorite shape. Cookie cutters come in a variety of shapes, and using shapes that
correspond to the nearest holiday is a delight. Near Christmas, use a Christmas Tree; Valentine’s use a heart; 4th of July use a Star.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Cook several sandwiches and use a round, square and triangle cookie cutters to create a shapely lunch. If you wish, fry up a little hamburger and sprinkle some chunks of meat inside and call it a cheeseburger. This idea is great for those whose children need to follow a gluten free diet since you can bake your own bread for use.

The use of cookie cutters is especially fun for pre-schoolers because you can review shapes with them and ask them if they can eat the triangle. For older children, they like to pretend play and pretend playing with real food will really appeal to them. Have your school aged child take your order and serve you.

No meal is complete without the above-mentioned toy. There’s always yard sales or consignment children’s stores that may have Happy Meal toys still in their original packaging. You could also try to stop in to McDonalds and ask if you could purchase a toy separately or ask parents of children who are too old for a Happy Meal toy to save them for you. You could even buy some on eBay! Another idea would be to visit the party goods area of your Wal-Mart or Target and take a look at the fun toys there. You will end up buying a package of them, but if you have more than one child, it is sometimes easier if everyone gets the same toy so there is no fighting.

I hope that this article gives you some ideas on a fun activity to do with your children. It seems so wasteful to take your children to McDonalds only to have them not eat! Making a Happy Meal at home may be something your children will enjoy and ask to do again.