Many parents worry about which meal options are the healthiest for their kids when eating out in restaurants. Kids’ menus are not generally smaller versions of the adult menu and can be less than nourishing.
On the kids menu, there are usually a myriad of similar choices in most restaurants such as chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza and burgers. Most of the choices use processed, ready-to-heat food items.
Lately, we are seeing a bit more variety of fresher items added to the menu such as apple wedges, yogurt, fresh fruit, and raw veggies and dips. Some even have foods in fun shapes.
If there are more interesting, healthful options on the full menu that you can order for your child, ask for a child-sized serving of a more healthful entrée. Broiled or grilled protein, cooked vegetables, whole grains and salads will help form a healthy plate for the kids from the adult menu. There may even be something more appropriate on the appetizer menu that would appeal to your child.
Perhaps you can share some of your meal with your child so that you have more options, such as cooked vegetables or protein items instead of the coated, high fat nuggets or burgers on their menu. You can create a healthy child’s plate from the adult plates at the table so just ask for a clean plate for them to which you can add your bites.
While burgers are not the worst things kids could eat, as they are good sources of protein and nutrients such as iron, pair them with cooked or raw vegetables instead of fries.
Watch the beverage you select! A soda will only add calories without nutrition, but a glass of low fat milk (even chocolate) is more nutritious. Maybe they can get treated to water with a cherry or lime wedge to add a touch of fun when dining out!
If your family eats out infrequently and eats well while at home, a less that nourishing meal once in a while should not be deal breaker, especially with portions in moderation. But if your family has a habit of eating out frequently, making the most nutritious choices on which you can agree help your child get the nutrition they need without the added calories, fat and salt they might not need.
If we all advocate for improved kids meals when we eat out, the restaurants will oblige us. After all, they want to make us happy enough to come back!