Article at a Glance
• Children usually eat twice as many calories when eating out than they do at home.
• Make eating out a healthier experience by choosing healthy alternatives like water or fruit, watching portion sizes, and choosing a restaurant that shares your commitment to nutrition.
Busy schedules make eating out a common solution when mealtime rolls around. In fact, in America over one-third of our calories are consumed in restaurants. Unfortunately the kids’ menu isn’t always a paragon of healthy eating. Studies have shown that kids eat almost twice as many calories at a restaurant as they do at home. Surprisingly, some kids’ meals contain more than 1,000 calories.
With childhood obesity on the rise it is important that we not only take a close look at how we eat at home, but also when we are enjoying a meal out or picking something up at a drive-thru. Next time you take your kids out to eat, here are some tips on how to keep it healthy.
Order healthier beverages.
Order water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks like soda, juice, or shakes. And don’t be tempted by refillable sodas or super-sized options. For example, a 42 oz. 7-Up equals approximately 525 calories!
Take a look at the nutritional information on the menu.
Look for meals that contain a good mix of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains. Choose grilled or baked foods over fried. Avoid condiments, dressings, and sauces that are high in fat. Avoid meals high in calories or fat.
Choose healthier options.
Order items like salads, vegetables, and fruit instead of french fries or high-fat desserts.
Be sure to watch your portion sizes.
Once you are full, request a doggie bag or that the waiter removes your plate so that you won’t be tempted to keep nibbling at your food.
Choose restaurants that have made a commitment to healthier eating.
For example, Darden Restaurants (owners of restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden) have teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America to start offering healthier options in children’s menus. As part of this commitment they will be improving the nutritional content of their children’s meals so that they don’t exceed 600 calories or 30% of their total calories from fat. They will also make a fruit or vegetable the default side for kids’ meals and 1% milk will be the default beverage. They have also committed to prominently display healthy options on their kids’ menus and not use pictures of carbonated drinks.
Start requesting healthier options at your favorite restaurants.
Restaurants will be more likely to make healthy changes if they know that there is a demand for it.
For More Information:
Eating Well While Eating Out (kidshealth.org)
First Lady Michelle Obama: “Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice (letsmove.gov)