How to Eat Away from Home Healthily
Posted by Mandy Sacher on March 20, 2015
Posted by Mandy Sacher on March 20, 2015
Does the idea of eating at a restaurant with your kids fill you with dread? Well in some instances it should. Restaurant food aimed at children is most often loaded with refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and sodium. A kids plate of chips contains approx. 600mg of salt – nearly 50% of a toddler’s daily requirements in one serve. Add to that a splash of ketchup, which can contribute approximately 1–2 teaspoons of refined sugar, and we have a problem on our hands.
Cheap fillers, preservatives and low-quality ingredients are common practice to ensure maximum profit whilst offering discounted rates on the kids’ menu items. Therefore, it’s no surprise that on average 1 in 4 kids are obese and that our children are, for the first time in history, suffering from type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
But, the answer isn’t to avoid restaurants, rather ensure that when you are eating out you choose the healthiest options for your family to avoid a nutritional nightmare. Here’s what to do…
If possible, research the menu online beforehand to get a sense of whether you can find at least one or two great meal choices. If the restaurant was picked by someone else, then plan ahead by bringing a few healthy supplies if you feel the food selection isn’t ideal. For babies and toddlers, bring along a few containers of carrot sticks, cucumbers or red peppers with hummus, avocado or yogurt dip. Also include easy finger food protein sources such as boiled eggs, falafels, Beef and Veggie Meatballs, fish patties, bliss balls and some fresh fruit.
For older children, it may be more difficult as they will demand their favorites. In these instances, follow the suggestions below:
Don’t wait for the bread basket to be placed in the center of the table. Hungry children will happily fill up on mouthfuls of nutrient-poor white bread rolls and butter before the real food arrives. A great way to avoid ‘bread tantrums’ is to instruct your waiter not to serve white bread before or with your meal. If your child is hungry while waiting for their meal, offer them prepacked snacks from home, or ask the waiter to bring a fresh salad with cut-up vegetables or a sharing plate if it’s on the menu.
Avoid the kids’ menu
The kids’ menu is most often a junk food trap made to entice young taste buds with deep-fried fish fingers and chips, chicken nuggets, toasted cheese sandwiches on white bread and refined pasta and a cheese or sweet tomato based pasta sauce. These meals offer little nutritional value and are often included as eating out staples for growing children. So, unless you’re eating at a venue with a healthy kid’s selection, it’s best to order off the main menu and either split a meal between your children or share with your child.
Aim for breakfast options that will kickstart the day for you and your family.
- Free-range boiled, poached, fried or scrambled eggs with healthy sides, such as salmon, avocado, fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella and grilled mushrooms. Ask for sourdough, wholegrain or gluten-free bread, or take along your own bread and ask the restaurant to toast it for you. You will be surprised at their willingness, especially if you mention it’s for your child.
- Superfood smoothies. A winning combination is to ask for natural yogurt, coconut water, chia, banana, blueberries and spinach. Sweeten it with honey or maple syrup, if necessary.
- Quinoa or chia porridge is now available in many health conscious places.
- Oatmeal (the old-fashioned kind) topped with plain yogurt and seasonal fruit.
Encourage your children to fill up on a protein-packed low Glycemic Index (GI) lunch option, to ensure their energy levels remain high throughout the afternoon.
- Sandwiches on sourdough or whole grain bread with at least one nutritious protein such as tuna, salmon, egg, cheese or shredded chicken, and additional energy-boosting ingredients such as avocado, lettuce, grated carrot or cucumber. Make sure the restaurant uses a good quality butter instead of margarine.
- If your children asks for chips, try to encourage them to have wedges, baked potato or mashed potato instead. Some restaurants may offer sweet potato wedges as a healthy alternative.
- Pizzas are a favorite for hungry little tummies, but make sure you order a thin crust pizza and ask if gluten-free options are available. Order the vegetarian option, especially if your child is young, to encourage them to eat pizza with added vegetables right from start.
- Boiled, grilled or roasted vegetables, fish or chicken. Most restaurants will be happy to prepare a plain piece of fish or chicken for young children and offer plain steamed or boiled vegetables on the side.
Eating out for dinner can be one of most challenging nutritional conquests. Also known as the ‘witching hour’, the end of the day can bring low blood sugar levels (more so than lunch) and is when veggie sticks, dips or other healthy snacks may be helpful to ward off pleas for less desirable options, whilst they wait for their food to arrive.
- Choose a healthy protein option such as grilled, sautéed or baked meats, poultry and fish. For vegetarians, chickpea rissoles, bean stews and falafels make a great protein choice.
- When ordering pasta, try to steer clear of plain white varieties, and check to see if wholemeal or buckwheat (also called Soba at Asian restaurants) options are available. Some healthy venues will even offer unique selections like spelt or quinoa pasta. As for sauce, a vegetable or meat sauce is preferable over plain pasta and tomato sauce.
- Sharing plates are a great choice as they encourage children to explore new tastes. Many restaurants offer tasting or sharing plates which include olives, marinated vegetables, cheese and dips such hummus, tzatziki and baba ganoush.
- Burgers will always remain a firm favorite. Ask for them to be served on a whole grain or sourdough bun instead of a white burger bun and ensure that if ordering chips on the side, it’s a small portion – not an adult sized portion! Another great option is to ask for rice and salad instead of chips (an option in most restaurants).