Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Healthy restaurant dining is possible with children and entire family

Next time you bring your children to a restaurant, pass on the chicken fingers and French fries.  While some restaurants are doing a better job offering healthier selections to young diners, most restaurant kids menus are still stuck in the chicken finger, grilled cheese, pizza and French fries mode…a far cry from a well-balanced, healthful meal for a growing child!

If your kids are used to ordering the above mentioned menu items, encourage them to try new options.  They may grumble in the beginning, but after consistent reintroduction to healthier selections, most kids develop taste for healthier foods.  Depending on the age of your children, you may wish to simply order for them, rather than asking them which food they would prefer – since often, many kids would pick the fried or high fat options over something more healthful, if given the choice.

If the restaurant where you dine does not offer a well-balanced kids menu, speak to the manager to promote change.  If that doesn’t work, see if there is something you could share with your child or order off the appetizer menu, instead.  And, well, if that doesn’t work, then that restaurant should probably be off your “regular” choices.

Here are some ideas for healthy, kid-friendly restaurant options to try:

  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Steamed or grilled vegetables (carrots and broccoli are actually reasonably popular among children…especially if there is a yummy dip alongside, such as lowfat raspberry vinaigrette dressing)
  • Thai summer rolls (steamed and made with rice paper, rather than fried wontons)
  • Edamame (at Asian restaurants…they are young, green soybeans that are a healthful, vegetarian source of protein)
  • Chicken quesadillas (on a whole wheat tortilla if possible, and possibly with half the normal amount of cheese).  Go for guacamole or salsa instead of sour cream or extra cheese.
  • Chicken, shrimp or salmon Caesar salad (dressing on the side)…or really, any small salad with some sort of protein on top (even beans or tofu!)
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Grilled chicken or fish served with rice instead of fries
  • A lean beef, turkey or veggie burger
  • A side of fruit/applesauce, yogurt or cottage cheese instead of chips
  • A portion of a hummus appetizer (just watch out for the portion of bread or chips served and then also order some veggies or fruit to balance out the plate)
  • A turkey sandwich with kid-friendly veggies like cucumbers, olives, lettuce and bell peppers and whole grain bread
  • Peanut butter sandwich (hold the jelly, or at least go light on it)
  • Plain pasta (no butter) served with marinara and parmesan cheese…even better if there is some grilled chicken or fish on top (a parent could even give a portion of theirs)
  • Last but not least, lowfat milk, water or club soda/seltzer instead of soda, lemonade or sweet tea
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