Kids can be picky eaters, but don’t they deserve better than a plate full of fried food every time you take them out to eat? Local step-mom and blogger Adrienne Burke shares some tips to help you make the best choice for your kids when you dine out. She has a great new website, naturallynassau.com, that focuses on all things natural, holistic and organic in Nassau County. Thanks for the post, Adrienne!
Did you know that in 2008, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention documented that one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese? Unfortunately, the trend has probably only grown (literally) in the last four years. Childhood obesity can lead to a host of lifetime problems, such as risk of diabetes, heart disease, bone and joint issues, sleep apnea, poor mental health, and increased cancer risk. Yikes!
But, let’s be honest, as much as we know better, sometimes getting kids to eat healthy isn’t always the easiest choice. Take dining out, which often seems simpler when we’re on the go – most kids’ menus are still going with the pizza, chicken nuggets, burgers, and fried food standbys. There has been movement by the National Restaurant Association to make changes to children’s menus. But what to do in the meantime when going out to eat?
- Think about the calories behind the kids’ menu items. Chances are you probably wouldn’t eat fried shrimp, French fries, a soda, and ice cream every time you went out to eat. So why should your kids? Try to pick the healthiest item. Spaghetti with tomato sauce is a better choice than a cheeseburger.
- Try to get a vegetable or fruit option, when available. Instead of fries, go with a veggie side. If they can get an apple instead of chips, go for it!
- Skip the kids’ menu entirely. Most restaurants will probably make a smaller portion of an adult dish or can bag the other part of the meal to take home. Consider appetizer or soup items as a kid-friendly meal instead.
- Soup, salad or sandwich it! Area chains like Panera, Jason’s Deli, or Einstein Bagels are kid-friendly places to eat that offer a variety of these options. Just remember to pay attention to the calories.
- Advocate! Veg Healthy Jax is a group in Jacksonville trying to get Jacksonville-area restaurants to carry healthier menu options, primarily plant-based meals without loads of oil, salt or additives. If you’re interested in helping out with their mission, visit their Meetup group. They would probably love a kids-focused member.
The reality is that healthy eating at home instead of eating out does take some time and prep work. Visit the local farmers markets with your children and pick up some veggies, granola, or other healthy snacks that you can carry with you. While you’re there, engage your children about food and eating. Plan snacks and meals in advance, knowing your weekly schedule. Try to shop for more whole foods, and less processed ones.
The best part is no one is requiring perfection or overnight change. Trying one new healthy food at a time is great, and hey, no one will notice if you don’t stick to everything you try. The important thing is the attitude to want to eat healthy, and it’s a good attitude to share with your kids even when dining out!
Adrienne Burke has lived in Nassau County for four years, and has a background in urban planning and environmental and land use law. She has a professional and personal interest in natural resources, the environment, and healthy living. Adrienne created www.naturallynassau.com to provide a resource and sense of community for those interested in organic, natural, sustainable and holistic living in Nassau County. She lives in Fernandina Beach with her husband, stepson and two rescue dogs.