Getting kids to eat good food at home is a challenge.
Getting them to eat good food at a restaurant is as easy as shaving your head with a plastic spoon. If you've chosen to eat out (and we do at least a couple of times a week), then you've probably already made the decision that your kids are going to get some things that aren't ideal or things they don't get on a regular basis -- but we try to not completely throw in the towel.
So what are some things you, as parents, can do to get a smidgen of nutrition in them when you're eating out -- because, c'mon, eating out is going to happen.
Here are some things we try to implement at a place where we pay to have our dishes done for us -- and let's face it, if you've already made a decision to go eat at a place that has free ice cream, you might as well let your kids eat the free ice cream because if you REALLY don't want them eating the ice cream -- choose a different place or eat at home. That being said:
If bread or chips come complementary before the meal, tell the server to please hold them to the end or just not bring them at all.
We find that it's easier to get good food in them, if the processed, highly refined foods aren't an option. Then if they choose to have a roll or some chips AFTER they've eaten their veggies or chicken or fruit, we'll give them that option as a special treat and sometimes they'll be full and won't even mention it.
If we give them full rein over the chips or rolls, that's all they'll eat and will fill up on non-human food.
A couple of things you can do:
Option 1 -- give them half of a roll or a handful of chips then cut it off. Set the expectation that once the portion of highly processed foods is gone -- it's gone.
Option 2 -- postpone the roll or handful of chips until the end of the meal and let them make the choice of whether to eat it or not. They'll probably choose to eat it, but at least they've eaten their broccoli first.
What really irks me is paying $13.99 for a grilled chicken breast and veggies then have my girls fill up on Texas toast or corn bread (which costs about $0.04) and not eat any food.
I'll always ask the server what the food I order for them is cooked in -- definitely prefer butter over margarine. I also make ketchup for my ketchup-lover and take with us in a small mason jar.
This ketchup is tomato paste, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, ground mustard, ground garlic, allspice, and a little sea salt. She loves it. No sugar, corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup.
Order water to drink.
We order our meat at home from a grass-fed ranch and eat that the majority of the time, but if we're out, it's my opinion that the safer long-term strategy is eating grilled chicken or a quality cut of beef (like from a steak house and NOT a place like Denny's) rather than sugars, grains or processed vegetable oils (like margarine or canola oil). For more information on the long-term dangers of grains and sugars read Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD or Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD.
Oh -- and chicken strips and chicken nuggets do NOT count as a good choice...sorry. Try to point to a chicken nugget on an actual chicken -- yeah -- gross.
Look for steamed veggie options like broccoli or carrots. If your kids like raw carrots, ask your server if there are raw carrots in the back. My thought on that is if the restaurant you're eating at doesn't have raw veggies in the kitchen it may not be the best restaurant choice for your family. I've found that many Mexican food restaurants will slice up squash or zucchini for me that I can dip in the salsa. Or I'll just eat the salsa like soup -- it's called Gazpacho that way.
Fruit is available in most restaurants -- always a good option. If you're at a hamburger place, having a patty with veggies on the side and no bun is a great meal. I will say that my girls will not eat a hamburger patty from anywhere other than a quality hamburger place -- like a ma and pop kind of place that has high quality beef and NOT McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, or Whataburger.
Salad bar places like Jason's Deli and McAlister's are always good and usually have stuff my girls will eat like olives, cheese, fruit, boiled eggs and nuts.
Another philosophy of ours is to try and limit the "unhealthy" food to one thing per outing -- emphasis on TRY. Like if we're at Jason's and we know they're going to get ice cream before we leave, we try to limit their consumption of crackers, muffins, bread, etc... Another example is at Mexican food places -- you can get crazy with chips, then tortillas, then enchiladas, then sopapillas, and on and on and on.
Our kids eat at home 85-90% of the time. That's a good number for us. How we try and handle the remaining 10-15%, which is comprised of school parties, school snacks, eating out, birthday parties, and other random food that strangers give them (JOKES) is to mitigate the "damage".
In other words, they're going to get treats. They're going trick or treating. They're having cake at their birthday. But all of those things fall in the 10-15% and anything we can do outside of the home to make them more healthy -- we're going to try and do.
If you have questions, like "well what about when you're out with a big group" then just email me via the contact page and we can chat.