There are not many children eating salads in restaurants. They do not often ask for a plate of broccoli or an apple on the side. Most will not automatically request water for a drink. But there are ways to entice children to make healthier choices when they are eating out at a restaurant.
Sure, restaurants can help by including healthy options on the kids’ menu. But since mom and dad (or another caregiver) is paying for the meals, there can be some mandating of healthy options too.
Here are five ways to help children eat healthier when eating out (and parents can use these tips at home too):
1. Offer a healthy alternative to a typical children's meal that is not necessarily nutritious.
Perhaps this means using whole wheat pasta in the spaghetti or brown rice instead of white for the orange chicken. Reducing the amount of semolina, found in gluten-containing products, can be a quick fix to making a meal healthier.
2. Provide fruits and vegetables children recognize as standard sides.
Even if fries are available offer kids things like mixed vegetables, salad, and fruit first.
3. Present the meal in a unique way.
The Bluewater Grill, a Newport Beach, Calif., seafood restaurant, had the inspiration to use bento boxes to present their kids' meals. Instead of using sharp skewers, the restaurant uses bamboo chopsticks for kids' meals of fish, chicken or steak.
4. Get the grilled option.
There are plenty of menu items which can be adapted in a healthier way. Getting chicken tenders grilled is an easy switch. Asking for a side of honey to sweeten the dish may make it even better.
5. Make healthy eating habitual.
By getting kids into a habit of choosing healthy options, they are having a life lesson that will last them a lifetime.
Choosing a restaurant that offers healthy options can be a little tricky. However, the National Restaurant Association is trying to make it easier. Three years ago it created KidsLiveWell.com which is a website where parents can find restaurants which participate in the Kids LiveWell program.