We enjoy cooking healthy meals at home, but like any other family, there are times when dinner prep just doesn’t happen. Eating out or getting take out doesn’t have to be an unhealthy option though; you just have to do a little homework and order well to put together a great meal for a healthy eater! 🙂
Here are some our tips for creating a healthier kids’ meal:
Research the Kids’ Meals at Your Local Restaurants
When it comes to food, it’s easy to make snap decisions when you’re suffering from “hanger.” It’s easy to Google most restaurant menus now, so take a look at the kids’ menu before you have to order or print out a copy and keep it in a drawer in your kitchen.
There are also some websites like the Healthy Dining Finder that can give you suggestions based on the nutritional content of kids’ meals at various restaurant chains.
Order an Appetizer
Sometimes you will luck out and find a great appetizer for your kids. We were recently at the 99 Restaurant (a local chain here in New England) and the kids loved sharing the hummus platter. The platter came with a generous helping of hummus, pita triangles, and a variety of vegetables for dipping!
Since getting the kids to eat enough fruits and vegetables can sometimes be challenging, this was a great option! Other fun options could be a cup of the soup of the day, quesadilla, shrimp cocktail, or sushi roll.
Have the Kids Split an Adult Entrée
While my kids definitely enjoy their grilled cheese or chicken tenders, I often sigh when the same 3 or 4 meals are on every kids’ menu. Wherever you turn, you will find the standard hamburger/cheeseburger, cheese pizza, pasta (with butter or sauce), macaroni and cheese, and chicken fingers.
I have no problem if that’s all your kids will eat, but my boys are pretty adventurous and will often eat things that are on the adult menu. So what to do? Why not just order an adult entrée and split it between two kids. The price will most likely be comparable and you’ll probably get a side salad or extra veggies to boot!
Give Your Kids Limited Choices – Sometimes You Have to Compromise!
Dining out with kids can often seem like a power struggle! Sometimes the best approach is a give and take. If they are willing to opt for a healthier main course, let them get a small dessert or a side that they want. It will make the process A LOT easier in the long run if they feel like they have a say in the decision!
You can also bring them to places where they can have a certain degree of choice (maybe you give them 2-3 options) in making their meal. We love Noodles & Company and FIRE+iCE (the kids LOVE selecting their protein, veggies and starch and then watching them as they are prepared!) for these exact reasons.
Ask for Different Sides!
While most kids’ menus have french fries as a side item, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for something healthier instead! Ask your server if you can swap out the french fries for a vegetable side, baked potato or rice (it may cost more, but it’s worth it!). I have noticed the more and more restaurants are also offering kids’ sides like sliced apples, baby carrots, or broccoli too!
What are your favorite restaurants for kids’ meals?