Limiting exposure to fast food restaurants may be one of the most important lessons you can teach your children. If they learn to accept that eating out 2 to 3 times a week at a fast food restaurant is normal and healthy, it will be difficult to get them to change their eating habits as young adults. An occasional outing to the fast food restaurants may be difficult to avoid, but try hard not to make it a way of life.
Here’re a few ways to make healthy choices when eating out with your family.
- Plan ahead. Many restaurants have responded to families seeking healthier menu choices with options like roasted chicken with steamed vegetables, fish taco restaurants, pasta places, sandwich shops, and some Asian food restaurants. Find the favorites in your city and don’t be shy to ask them for the nutritional content of their menu items. Most restaurants have this information available for their guests.
- Exercise portion control. Portion sizes at restaurants are often larger than the recommended serving size, so consider sharing meals among family members. If you have a younger child, order a meal for yourself and share that with him or her. The “kids meals” typically consist of less healthful choices like chicken nuggets, burgers, pizza, fries and unlimited soda. For the older kids, start the meal by sharing a salad or ask your server for cut up veggies they can munch on before the meal arrives.
- Travel smart. Sometimes when we are on vacation and eating out every meal, it’s hard to keep up our healthy eating habits. When planning your next family vacation, talk to your kids about setting limits of one soda or one dessert a day. If you negotiate this ahead of time, your children will find following the rules much easier. Otherwise, your children may begin to think a soda with every meal and dessert with lunch and dinner is normal. Don’t forget, 100% juice is a healthy alternative to soda whenever available.