While eating home-cooked meals is always the most nutritious option for children and adults, occasional visits to restaurants or cafes can be exciting and a delicious experience. Moreover, parents who love dining out are usually very excited about their kid’s first meal in a restaurant. However, do remember that children can learn a lot about healthy habits too, when they eat out. You might be wondering how you can encourage them to eat healthy in restaurants, where there is always a chance to consume more fat, salt, and sugar. These tips can help you out as parents.
Strategies to encourage healthy eating in children:
- Always choose a restaurant that provides healthy food options for kids. This means, look for a restaurant that offers smaller portions for kids or special meals that are healthy.
- Filling up on junk like chips or too much bread before going to a restaurant can make your child lose appetite. And in such cases, they won’t want to eat nutritious meals anymore.
- If your child is very young, you might be wondering how to make kids eat at a restaurant where nothing is as per their taste. You can either give them a mashed banana or cut up soft fruits, depending on their age, while you enjoy your own food. This will help them get their recommended one serving of fruit per day, and keep them occupied too. Cut grapes and other solid foods into bite-sized pieces so that they do not choke on them.
- Teach kids to eat slowly by chewing the food so that they start enjoying the flavours. Parents are role models and have to maintain a relaxed atmosphere and promote good eating habits for kids.
- Encourage their curiosity about foods and teach them table manners. Pastas with a little olive oil or marinara sauce are any kid’s favourite as they can easily pick the pieces with a spoon or fork.
- Always ask the waiter to not add extra salt to the child’s vegetables. Even a plain baked potato or sweet potato that is seasoned lightly can be a good option. Avoid giving spicy or hot food to kids as it can hurt them. It is always best if you try their food first.
- Encourage your kids to eat new foods. The more variety there is, the more nutrition they will get. You can even ask them to take a few bites of the new foods on your plate.
- Whether it is passing a plate of food to the whole family to taste, or sharing one cheesecake, teach your kids about sharing foods and portion control.
- As eating out these days has become more of a norm than ever before, be careful of what your kid drinks. Give them fat-free milk or plain water or fresh fruit juice instead of a soda.
- You can choose a baked or grilled chicken dish, a vegetable stir-fry, or pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce, and share it with your kid. It is also a good idea to order an appetizer that is healthy, as a main course for your child, like chicken skewers, spring rolls, or quesadillas. A soup and a sandwich combo can be perfect too.
- Set ground rules before you take your kids out. So if they already had a sugary meal earlier in the day, make them understand that they can’t have another one for dessert. Instead, they can have fruit.
So, these were some of the smart ways to encourage healthy eating in kids. Try to order dishes prepared with local produce and those that don’t use too many sauces, as the latter might contain additives. Restaurant menus usually tend to be high on calories, fats and salt. So, try choosing a healthy place to eat out, and if not possible, try balancing your child’s meals and portion sizes so that he or she ends up getting enough nourishment.