Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Tips for dining out with the kids

As parents we juggle our careers, household upkeep, soccer practice and homework and that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. We try in vain to manage all these activities and get the kids to bed at a decent hour.

Let’s face it, in today’s busy world, who doesn’t like having someone else do the cooking once in a while? Dining out allows us to slow down a little. It gives us time to sit back and really talk to our kids and perhaps work on that homework while waiting for the meal to arrive.

The challenge that we face, however, is chicken fingers, mac and cheese and fries. Now, if you only splurge once or twice a month in a restaurant this is not such a big issue. But if your family dines out several times per week, your children are eating too much fat, too many calories and not enough vegetables.

Once the decision is made to dine out we are faced with many decisions, including where to go and what to eat. Whether it’s fast food or a sit down meal, there are menu options available for kids that will meet your healthy standards and then of course there is the opposite.

Take, for example, the kids’ turkey mini burgers at Ruby Tuesday, which are 873 calories and 41 g of fat and the kids’ chicken tenders are 704 calories and 34 g of fat. Better choices include the kids’ pasta marinara (490 calories and 6 g fat) or the kids’ chicken breast (217 calories and 9 g of fat) paired with broccoli and the meal is complete. Ruby Tuesday also offers choices such as green beans, baked potato and mashed cauliflower.

Friendly’s, another popular spot to bring the kids, offers a wide selection of choices. While the cheeseburger has 450 calories and 27 grams of fat (fries not included), the grilled cheese sandwich is only 290 calories with 17 grams of fat.

A better choice might be to ask for a grilled chicken breast with a vegetable choice such as broccoli or corn or perhaps the applesauce or mandarin orange slices. Watch out for the kids’ happy ending ice cream desserts, these add an additional 300-860 calories to an already calorie-heavy meal.

As for beverages, stick with water or low fat milk and stay away from soda, juices, flavored milk and lemonades. These choices can easily add 100-350 calories to the meal.

Fast food restaurants can also be a challenge, but don’t despair; you can feel good about the occasional trip to the golden arches. A simple hamburger with a small fry comes in at 480 calories with 20 grams of fat. Skip the fries and choose the apple slices and you’ve just shaved off quite a few calories. Both McDonalds and Burger King offer 1% or skim milk, which always a good choice. Encourage your child to choose the grilled chicken sandwiches or the grilled chicken snack wrap, both of which have fewer calories than the cheeseburger.

If your favorite restaurant doesn’t offer a kids’ menu or you don’t like the choices offered, ask your server for child-size portions from the regular menu.

Spaghetti and marinara or grilled chicken or fish are always healthy choices. Encourage salads or maybe a grilled chicken fajita and if low fat milk is not available, go with water, which is always calorie-free. Keep asking for low fat milk -- my philosophy is if enough requests are made, restaurants will eventually catch on.

Chain restaurants, such as 99, Ruby Tuesday, Subway, McDonald's or Panera Bread provide the nutrition information online. Check out your favorite restaurant’s websites to help you navigate your way through the menu.

Putting it all into perspective:
• Ages 4-8 years: Needs are 1400-1600 calories/day for a moderately active child.
• Ages 9-13 years: Needs are 1600-2000 calories/day for a moderately active female and 1800-2200 calories/day for a moderately active male.
Source: Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrient report, 2002.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?