You’ve finally managed to get your kids to sit down at a restaurant that doesn’t have a playground, and now you’re just hoping there will be something on the menu they will eat. The more “kid friendly” foods seem to […]
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Dining Out Doesn’t Have to Mean High-Calorie Meals for the Kids In Your Family

by Jessa McClure on March 28, 2014

in Healthy Living

menuYou’ve finally managed to get your kids to sit down at a restaurant that doesn’t have a playground, and now you’re just hoping there will be something on the menu they will eat. The more “kid friendly” foods seem to be higher in fat and calories. Are there any healthy options for kids when it comes to dining out?

McLane Children’s Scott & White pediatric dietitian, Amy Cantrell, RD, LD, said that there are ways to feed your kids healthy foods when you’re eating away from home. You just have to know what to look for on the menu.

What are some of the healthier food items to look for?

  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Salads without fried items on top
  • Fresh fruit or fruit cups
  • Low-fat milk
  • Smaller servings of 100% juice
  • Grilled food items
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Unsweetened drinks

How can parents control portion sizes when dining out?

Even if your child chooses a healthy food item from the menu, they might get a whole lot of it. Larger portion sizes and frequent snacking coupled with inactivity are some of the biggest factors in pediatric obesity.

“Order the children’s-sized portions,” Ms. Cantrell said. “Don’t be tempted to get a larger or “super-sized” just because your child prefers it. If the child requests more food, then choose a healthier item to add to the meal. But wait until after the main meal is consumed at a reasonable pace.”

If the child eats too quickly, they are more likely to eat more because their brain hasn’t recognized that the body has received nourishment.

Does the children’s menu tend to have more high-calorie items?

While many restaurants and fast food chains are including healthier options and substitutions like apples for French fries and steamed veggies instead of chips, it is still up to the parent to choose carefully.

“[Children’s menus] can absolutely be higher in fat and calories if deep fried foods are selected or if added fats are used,” the dietitian said.

What should parents keep in mind when they are ordering for their children?

Along with keeping a list of healthy food options in the back of their minds, parents should also practice what they preach.

“If [parents] insist on eating large, high-calorie and high-fat meals and choose a low-fat, smaller meal for their child, it is a contradiction and kids can see that,” Ms. Cantrell said.

The dietitian said instead of splurging on a high-calorie meal when you go out to eat, you should order something that you might make at home.

“Choose healthy meal options and recognize that large portions are a technique that some restaurants use to promote “value for your money.” She said. “Just because they provide that amount, doesn’t mean that it must all be consumed. Save some for later or share, but don’t feel obligated to clean your plate.”

For more information about portion sizes and healthy meal ideas for children and adults visit choosemyplate.org.

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