Eating out is usually a great treat for the whole family! It gives you a break from meal planning, cooking and cleaning, and everyone can order what they like! But dining out with toddlers or young children can sometimes be so stressful, it doesn’t feel worth the effort. Eating out with kids can be a challenge, mostly because:
- Many children are picky eaters.
- Kids tend to eat small portions and it can feel like a waste of money.
- Many kids have a hard time sitting still during the course of a restaurant meal with table service.
Before you grab that take-out menu, consider these tips to make eating out with kids both enjoyable and healthy.
Select a Restaurant with Fast Service
Select a restaurant with a wide range of menu options and fast service. Family style restaurants usually understand the constraints of eating out with kids and may have faster service; essential for active kids. If you really need to eat in a hurry, review the menu online before you arrive so you can order as soon as you are seated.
Order Balanced Meals
When ordering, try to balance the meal with as many food groups as possible; milk + milk products, vegetables, fruits, grains and meat + beans. Low-fat milk is the preferred beverage and fruit or yogurt make a great dessert. Many restaurants now offer healthier side dishes like cooked vegetables, carrots and apple slices.
Sharing and Other Money Saving Tips
Most parents want to minimize food waste when eating out. Stick with the tried and true preferences and let your child take a bite off your plate to expand their culinary palate. If you have more than one child and you can get an agreement to order the same food, consider ordering one menu item for the kids to share. Side dishes like French Fries can be shared by the whole family. Another excellent choice for children is ordering an appetizer as the entrée – and adding a side dish if needed to balance out the meal.
Keep it Social
Restaurant eating is an excellent opportunity to teach kids good manners and how to behave in public. So keep the conversation positive, teach them how to eat like grown- ups and eventually they will become competent adults that can order (and eat) a wide variety of foods, put their napkin on their lap, refrain from talking with their mouth full and enjoy a meal out with family and friends!
Healthy Fast Food Tips
Sometimes a fast food restaurant is the best or only restaurant option. You can encourage healthier choices by ordering milk with the meal, sharing one order of French Fries with the family or ordering a side salad instead of fries. Some restaurants offer fruit and yogurt that can balance out the meal.