eating out with the family

How often do you and your family eat out at a fast-food restaurant? If you and your family, go to a fast food restaurant just 1 or 2 times per week, that adds up to 52 and 104 times per year! That's a lot of fast food!! Many fast food choices are high in fat and calories. If you only eat fast food or at a sit-down restaurant once in a while, enjoy it, but if you are a "Frequent Fryer," making healthier choices at restaurants can make all the difference to maintain a healthy energy balance . Although not all restaurant meals contain an excessive amount of calories and fat, it is important to consider that their foods can be highly processed, high in fat and low in important nutrients.

Eating with children at restaurants comes with it's own set of challenges, but also provides opportunities to introduce your children to variety of new healthy foods. Try these tips the next time you enjoy dining at a restaurant.


  • Choose "Kid-Friendly" Dining Restaurants Choose restaurants that cater to children and have a nutritious children's menu that include smaller portion sizes and meals designed to provide ample nourishment for smaller bodies . Many restaurants have menus available on-line so you can check out the options in advance.
  • Try New Foods! Some kids are more adventurous than others but it's important to encourage tasting new foods when dining out. The more variety in the diet, the more nutrients provided. Choose two or three suitable menu items, then let your child pick one. For new foods, offer a bite or two from your meal or order plain foods with the sauce on the side.
  • Fruit First Ask your server for cut up or mashed fruit (depending on the age of your child) for your child to enjoy as an appetizer. This keeps them occupied and contributes to the 1 cup of fruit they need per day. This also helps your child avoid filling up on bread or chips before their meal.
  • Simple is Best Often side dishes, even steamed vegetables are highly seasoned.Request that a child's vegetables be made without added salt. Order a plain baked potato or sweet potato, mash and season lightly at the table.
  • Sharing is Fun! Whether it's splitting a platter of pasta for the whole family to sample or ordering one slice of cheesecake with four forks, dining out can provide an opportunity to teach proper control when you share.


  • Choose "Kid-Friendly" Fast Food Places Choose fast-food restaurants that serve healthier kids meals. Several restaurants have committed to include milk and fruit instead of soda and French Fries in their kids' meals.
  • Use GO and WHOA to Help You Make a Healthy Choice in Restaurants. Substitute healthier "sides" in place of French Fries, such as baked potatoes, side salads, apple slices or mandarin oranges.
  • Keep an Eye on Portion Sizes. Many fast-food places serve more food than one person needs at one meal and encourage upsizing. Children and adult portion sizes are different . Every bite should deliver health-boosting nutrients for growing bodies and minds.
  • Rethink the Drinks Encourage plain water, fat-free milk (as calcium is important at all ages, but especially for growing bones), or make your own special "soda" by adding fruit juice to sparkling water.
  • Make physical activity part of dining out. Walk with your family to a restaurant within 15 to 20 minutes of walking distance or park your car down the street or at a nearby park and walk. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. Choosing fast food restaurants with a kids play area is also a great way to keep your kids active in any weather.

Keep healthy GO snacks on the GO! Bring fresh fruit or low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers with you. When your child says he or she is hungry, provide a healthy snack. This way you won't feel compelled to ease your child's hunger by making a drive-thru run.


Adapted from: Teacher and Family Connections Curriculum: A Supplement to the All 4 Kids program

Lindsay, A. 2020, Eating Healthy at Restaurants - Choosing Healthy Items No Matter Where You Are, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP

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