When dining out with kids, the kids' menu is never very creative and does not offer much variety or options when it comes to a well-balanced meal. Tips from the CEO of Super Sprowtz help parents make smart choices about what to order for their kids to ensure a well-balanced meal.
The Kids Menu trap: What are some of the healthier options on a typical restaurant's kids' menu?
Whether you are having take-out or counter service, the majority of diners serve healthier choices like roasted chicken breast, whole grain breads, and steamed vegetables. Unfortunately, generally speaking, kids' menus are tragically unimaginative. If you have seen one kids' menu, you've seen them all. Chicken fingers, burgers, pizza, fries, and (shudder) unlimited soft drink refills. Kids' menus are designed that way on purpose because these are known "kid foods" that almost every child enjoys without question. However, there is no one saying you can't mix things up a bit and ask for order substitutions.
Super Spowtz is a team of educators, nutritionists, musicians, foodies, artists, filmmakers, and storytellers who are committed to building a healthier future for the next and current generation of children through the arts. Courtesy Super Sprowtz
Customizing your meal will allow you at least some control over the quantity and quality of food your family consumes. If your child wants pizza, ask if you can get it with less cheese or if they can add some veggie toppings.
Having a burger? Substitute the fries for a the vegetable of the day or a cup of fruit salad. Also, don't be shy to ask a restaurant for the nutritional content of their foods. They will often have a printed copy available for perusal. If you know beforehand that you will be dining at a particular haunt, take a quick spin on the Internet to investigate the restaurant's menu on their website.
What are some ways to get my child to want the healthier options when we dine out?
We suggest talking with your child about what they are hungry for before entering the restaurant. What do they think would make their tummy happy? This way your child has to think about what they want instead of seeing a menu and making their selection based on familiar pictures. Ask them questions about what kind of veggies they're hungry for that day, what they would like to drink, what kind of fruits would be a yummy desert, and so on. Their answers might surprise you!
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You are also allowed to make rules about eating. For example, Timmy can have one small cup of juice with his lunch, after the juice is gone, he will drink water for the remainder of the meal. Ultimately, you are working with your child to build healthy behaviors around food which will help them to make the right choices independently later on down the line. Eventually, instead of associating chicken fingers with fries and a soda, they will think, chicken fingers with milk and carrot sticks.
Every meal is a teaching moment. When your family goes to a sit-down restaurant, go in knowing that the portion sizes are often too large and make it work in your favor. Large portions are excellent for sharing among family members. That way your children can have their favorite chicken fingers, but also save room for other, healthier things. For the older kids, instead of letting them carbo load on dinner rolls, share a salad or crudités appetizer with them while waiting for your meal to arrive. By making these little changes, and sticking with them, each time you go out to eat, you are building behavior patterns that your child will come to expect, and eventually adopt, during meal time.
Radha Agrawal is the founder and CEO of Super Sprowtz. Alarmed by what she saw as a growing obesity epidemic among urban children, she became committed to changing the way children eat. This, combined with her years of experience in story-telling as a commercial and film producer, led her to create the Super Sprowtz. It is her belief that through entertaining story lines, catchy music, and lovable characters, children can see vegetables and nutrition differently. She earned her bachelor's from Cornell University where she also played varsity soccer. She currently lives, paints, bikes and eats locally in New York City.