It's pretty common knowledge that regular meals at most chain restaurants are not brimming with nutritional value and since people continue to patronize these establishments, it's no surprise that not much is happening in the way of change. But given our country's obesity crisis--especially when it comes to children--it really does sadden me that we as consumers are not making better choices. One of the things I have done is make these restaurant visits once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences and I follow these five tips for making healthy choices for my child when I go out to eat:
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Avoid kid foods. The most important thing I do is that I don't order off of kids' menus. My son is used to eating the same foods we adults eat, so there is no reason to stuff him with chicken nuggets and day-glo mac and cheese when we go out. His palate is developed enough to actually prefer more sophisticated foods. By avoiding the so-called kid-friendly dishes in the first place, your child's will be too.
Veggies first. Order a steamed veggie side dish or green salad as an appetizer and have your kids munch on that while you wait for your entrees. That way, there's less room in their bellies for french fries and pizza. They can still have the treat, but less of it, therefore cutting down on all the bad stuff.
Share. Most regular entrees at chain restaurants are big enough for two or three adult-sized meals, so why not consider splitting one with your child? It'll cut down on calories for you and the little one, plus it'll save you money. And if you started with the veggies, you won't have to worry about there not being any food left for you.
Pack extras. If you have two paying adults, most restaurants won't take issue with you breaking out some snacks from home for your kiddos, especially if it's keeping them quiet. Bringing along a sippy cup of water and a few healthy finger foods such as fruit, steamed veggies and low-sugar cereal is particularly helpful if you have an older infant or toddler.
Stick to water or plain milk. By now most of us have heard the advice about not drinking our calories. Well, same goes for kids. If you don't normally allow soda, slushies, juice or flavored milk, there's no reason to do so when you go out. If you do want to allow a treat, try a fruit smoothie or dilute juice with some water.