I love taking my kids to restaurants. It is such a treat for them and, now that they are a bit older, it’s almost like a date night for Mom and Dad! I do have one small issue though: Kids’ Menus.
Why is every single Kids’ Menu the same in restaurant after restaurant? My kids get the same choices: chicken fingers, macaroni & cheese, hot dog, grilled cheese, spaghetti or pizza. Where are the vegetables? What about a fish option that is not breaded and in the shape of a stick? How do our kids get vitamins and other important nutrients from bland fried foods? Can my kids not be offered salmon with a side of broccoli and a salad just because their age fits the 12 & under menu?
I understand the smaller portions. I have 3 daughters, combined they barely eat 2 kids’ meals, but I do not understand the menu choices. We have started discussing this with our kids and spending a bit more money to get an extra adult meal for our children to share. Nicely prepared cuts of real meat, vegetables steamed and a side of fragrant rice or baked (not fried) potato.
I am happy as I know they are getting nutrients they need, but for the kids, it’s sometimes a hard sell. My kids can read now and they see the kids menu with the foods all kids love and the brownie included or an ice cream soda float offered with fancy straws. My kids are normal, if offered pizza or salmon, they are still going to pick pizza most of the time.
We recently went on a two-week vacation where eating out at a buffet was the norm for breakfast and lunch, sometimes dinner too. The options in the kids’ section were the same as above, with to their credit, a huge tray of vegetables in the middle.
The remainder of the ‘adult’ buffet was loaded with fresh fish, (non-breaded) chicken, salads, healthy pastas, beans and eggs. We took this opportunity to let the kids make their own choices and then discussed the food on their plate and what they might add (or avoid!) next time to make it healthier.
Luckily, on this vacation we just happened to bring along our Today I Ate a Rainbow kit and it made a huge impact. It became a favorite meal-time game for the kids to go around the buffet and find foods they both enjoyed eating and that would complete their eating a rainbow of colourful food for that day. Turns out, when you walk away from the kids food station, there was an abundance of healthy foods they loved eating!
We are all about treats and going to a restaurant is definitely a treat. The odd kids meal including fries is fun for everyone, but if eating out becomes the norm, see if you can use he opportunity to talk to older kids about healthy choices versus foods that should be reserved as a treat. Challenge them to add brightly coloured vegetables before getting that brownie for dessert!
There is also no reason kids can’t order off the healthier adult menu. If portion size steers you away from healthier choices remember, leftovers make excellent doggie bags for tomorrow’s lunch!
Eating healthy when out with kids is possible, but might mean passing on the kids’ menu and letting your kids make their own choices from a healthier Adult section of the menu!
How do you handle getting your kids to eat healthy when you eat out?