Kids Come First

Fried food, sugary drinks, and limited options…navigating the kid’s menu while adhering to healthy nutrition can be challenging. We tapped into the brains of two Northside Hospital outpatient dietitians and here they share their tips on how to make healthy choices while dining out with kids.

The Dieticians: Leah Galante, MS, RDN, LD and Elyse Sartor, RDN, LD

What are the healthiest staples that are often found on kid’s menus?
Some of the healthiest staples on kid’s menus include: baked or grilled chicken or fish, carrots and celery sticks, broccoli, apple slices, orange slices, grapes, fruit cup, applesauce and low-fat milk or yogurt. Don’t just stick to the kid’s menu. Look at the options from the main menu —especially the sides — and consider splitting a meal or parts of your meal with your kids.
What about the best beverages?
Choose healthy beverages to avoid sugary drinks like sodas, lemonades and fruit drinks. Try swapping sodas for sparkling water with citrus slices, an umbrella, a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, or swirly straws. Consider letting your kids create a healthier “signature” beverage with common ingredients.

Teach choosing healthy options at restaurants by doing it yourselves.

If you are choosing vegetables over fries or grilled chicken instead of fries, kids will be more apt to do so as well. You can also provide your kid with 2-3 healthy meal choices from the menu and let them choose from those for themselves.

How can parents modify kids’ orders at restaurants to make them healthier?
Ask for sauces or dressings on the side and add less of these to the meal than what is typically served. Choose baked, broiled, grilled, steamed, or roasted over fried foods. Replace French fries with fruits or vegetables. Opt for whole grain options such as 100 percent whole grain breads and pastas or brown rice.
How should you work with picky kids when dining out?
Parents can encourage kids to try bites of new foods off of their plates while allowing the child to choose foods with which they are familiar. Don’t force kids to eat if they aren’t hungry, but offer healthy options and try to stick to a similar meal and snack schedule even when eating out.

Lead by example and regularly introduce kids to new healthy options at home first.

Involve your kids in choosing new vegetables to try when you’re at the grocery store. Allow kids to taste them many times with other familiar options to slowly expand their palate. Model and apply the same guidelines for a family dinner at home when eating out.