Healthy Fast-Food Picks for Kids from Coast to Coast

Fast food can be wholesome food. Take a look at these innovative restaurants providing healthy menu items fit for kids. 

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Healthy Menus Fit for Kids

Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely to have access to wholesome, quick and kid-friendly food when out and about? Several eateries around the country have mastered quick and healthy on-the-go meals offering seriously fun and flavorful dishes that definitely won't bore the kids. Need proof? Take a look at these innovative restaurants providing nutritious menu items fit for even the toughest chicken-finger addict. 

Photo by Rey Lopez for Beefsteak

Brooklyn and Manhattan: Bark Hot Dogs

At Bark Hot Dogs they serve a hot dog you can trust. Sourced from all-natural farms in New York where animals are humanely raised, these frankfurters contain only whole cuts of meat — pork shoulder, belly, jowl, belly and beef shoulder. The veggie version is prepared from barley and wheat, Yukon gold potatoes, apple, sage and special Bark seasoning. Relish is made from scratch from pickled local cucumbers seasoned with chile and lime juice. As for sides, in summer there’s roasted local corn on the cob with raw zucchini and a Sungold-buttermilk dressing. Come fall a kabocha squash hits the lineup with a Grafton cheddar-hot pepper-maple dip. Everything that’s produced at Bark (from the food to the packaging) is compostable and sent out to be turned into biofuel.

Photo by Evan Sung

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Chicago: LYFE Kitchen

When LYFE Kitchen needed a chef with the chops to design a healthy and satisfying menu, they called upon Oprah Winfrey’s pal Art Smith. Having lost 100 pounds, Executive Chef Smith drew upon his own good-for-you recipes. Clearly it’s working, as the restaurant now sells more than 11,000 Brussels sprouts per year. A favorite on the Little LYFERs menu is the Unfried Chicken Strips. Good news for the parents: Kids can’t order soda, as there is none. Instead, they can sip on smoothies like Banana Date or pick from flavored waters like a hibiscus tea infused with beet, apple, lemon and ginger.

Photo courtesy of LYFE Kitchen

More About: Lyfe Kitchen

Dallas: Taziki

When Keith Richards (no relation to the lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones) returned from a trip to Greece, he couldn’t stop the recipes from swirling around in his head. So he took out a second mortgage and began Taziki in 1998, and now he’s close to opening his 50th outpost. At the core of Taziki’s popularity are the menu favorites like the Sneaky Taziki — a roll-up stuffed with a protein and cheese (kids' choice) and served with a side of fruit. Richards isn’t focused only on keeping kids happy at the table. He hires young adults with special needs, who are employed in the chain's Alabama-based herb garden, where they pick oregano and basil that is shipped to all of Taziki’s locations.

Photo courtesy of Taziki

Denver: Modmarket

Colorado-based Modmarket has cornered the market on from-scratch, fresh and quick fare. While there are a plethora of salads and sandwiches on the roster, the pizza is protein-packed and pure. A whole-wheat flour dough forms the crust, and unlike fast-food pizzerias that add anti-caking ingredients to their cheese, Modmarket uses whole-milk mozzarella shredded onsite. Topped with organic crushed Bianca di Napoli tomatoes with fresh basil and no added sugar, the brick-oven pizzas are as clean and simple as a pie can be. The rest of the menu is seen through the same lens, made with clean, farm-sourced ingredients.

Photo by Natalie Pigliacampo

More About: Modmarket

Las Vegas and Nationwide: Shake Shack

Listen, we know kids are going to beg for a burger every once in a while. So, pick a burger joint that you can trust when it comes to how and where they source their ingredients. Tops on that list is Shake Shack, which pledges to serve 100 percent all-natural Angus beef from farmers who vow not to use artificial growth hormones, and serves it on buns that are guaranteed GMO-free. If the family is looking for a vegetarian option, the kids won’t be disappointed with the ’Shroom Burger: a meaty portobello mushroom stuffed with melted Muenster and cheddar cheeses, and topped with lettuce, tomato and the signature ShackSauce.

Photo by Evan Sung

More About: Shake Shack

Los Angeles: Kye's

When he was younger, owner Jeanne Cheng’s son Kye had very specific nutritional needs and a picky palate. As a result, Cheng found creative ways to feed Kye nutrient-dense food, which, most importantly, needed to taste good. At Kye’s she uses her culinary ingenuity to boost scrambled eggs with spinach, and beef burgers with Swiss chard, and smoothies are prepared with coconut milk. The best-seller? The hand-held Sweet Chicken KyeRito, featuring crunchy, toasted nori wrapped around a layer of sticky rice and quinoa, den miso-glazed organic chicken, organic broccoli and goji berries. The entire menu is kid-approved. “If Kye won’t eat it, we won’t serve it,” says Cheng.

Photo courtesy of Marie Buck

Minneapolis: Agra Culture

This all-day eatery offers fresh salads, pressed juices, sumptuous sandwiches and mix-and-match Agra Plates that are offered in mini versions for the little ones. Pick-your-own-protein options include chicken bites, tofu or beef and come with a choice of two sides like the restaurant's famous “un-fried” rice. Agra Culture also has the standard kid items (served with milk or a juice box), but they are not prepared with standard ingredients. Gluten-free corn tortillas are the base of the quesadilla with housemade pico de gallo, which oozes with unprocessed cheese. Agra Culture’s outpost at the Minneapolis Institute of Art allows you to feed your kids a side of culture with their wholesome eats.

Photo © Diana Bassett for Agra Culture Kitchen & Press

Philadelphia: Dizengoff

How many times a week are your kids snacking on hummus? That’s the focus of this “hummusiya” based on the quick-service hummus joints sprinkled across Israel. At Dizengoff (named for Tel Aviv’s famous shopping boulevard), theirs is simply prepared from a blend of tahini, chickpeas, salt, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and water. To adorn the creamy spread, there’s a rotating list of toppings running the gamut from a slow-cooked egg to beef brisket. Kids enjoy dunking the pita bread that comes with each order, prepared by hand from scratch that morning. The only issue: Once this place runs out of pita, it’s done for the day. Don’t miss the frozen mint lemonade!

Photo by Michael Persico

San Francisco: Tender Greens

Tender Greens' motto is “slow food done fast.” They feature ingredients from farmers markets along with humanely raised meats, sustainably caught fish and, for the adults, local wines and beers. One of the most-popular items on the menu is Tender Greens’ Hot Plates, which are trimmed down in size for the kiddos. For just $6, kids get a plate full of healthy proteins and vegetables. Choices on the Hot Plates menu include the Backyard Marinated Steak, Chipotle Barbecue Chicken, Salt and Pepper Chicken, Grilled Roasted Vegetables, Crispy Falafel or Herb Brushed Albacore — fresh tuna brushed with sea salt, lemon and olive oil.

Photo by An Hoang

Washington, D.C.: Beefsteak

José Andrés is not only a talented Spanish chef but also a father to three daughters. Beefsteak, his latest eatery, on the George Washington University campus, is where vegetables take the spotlight. The largely customizable menu offers flavorful bowls featuring grains, sauces, crunchy toppings and market-driven vegetables. The kids might gravitate toward the meatless Beefsteak Burger, which is composed of a hearty beefsteak tomato and pickled red shallots, topped with guacamole, alfalfa sprouts and a caper-herb Dijon aioli. It's a burger that Andrés can feel good feeding to his kids, and you can feel good feeding to yours. Forget bottled apple juice. Beefsteak’s juices, like the Pineapple Basil, are made daily in-house.

Photo by Rey Lopez