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 restaurant food for your kids fill you with dread? Well it should, restaurant food is most often loaded with refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and sodium. A kiddies plate of chips contains approx. 600mg of salt – nearly 50% of a toddler’s daily requirements in one serve, a splash of tomato sauce adds to that amount and can contribute to approximately 1-2 teaspoons of refined sugar.
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 Australian kids are obese and that our children are for the first time in history suffering from type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
The answer is not to avoid restaurants, but rather to ensure that when eating out you choose the healthiest options for your family and avoid a nutritional nightmare. So what to do…
If possible, check out 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 coming stocked with 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 capsicum with hummus, avocado or yoghurt dip. Also include a protein source such as boiled eggs, chicken rissoles, canned sardines, bliss balls and some cut up fresh fruit.
For older children it may be more difficult as they will demand their favourites. In these instances, follow the suggestions below:
Don’t wait for the bread basket to be placed in the centre 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 enticing young taste buds with deep-fried fish fingers and chips, chicken nuggets, toasted cheese sandwiches on white bread and spaghetti bolognaise. These meals offer little nutritional value and are often included as eating out staples for growing children. So unless you are 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 between you and your child.
Aim for breakfast options that will jumpstart 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 ask to include natural yoghurt, coconut water, chia, banana, blueberries and spinach. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup if necessary.
- Quinoa or chia porridge is now available in many health conscious places. Check to see if it’s on the menu.
- Oatmeal (the old-fashioned kind) topped with plain yoghurt and seasonal fruit.
Encourage your children to fill up on a protein packed low GI lunch options to ensure their energy levels remain high throughout the afternoon.
- Sandwiches on sourdough or wholegrain 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 ask for chips, try to encourage them to have wedges, baked potato or potato mash instead. Some restaurants may offer sweet potato wedges as a healthy alternative.
- Pizzas are a favourite 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’; it’s the end of the day, blood sugar levels may be at their lowest (more so than lunch) and this is when veggie sticks, dips or other healthy snacks may come in handy 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 super 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 good 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 ghanoush.
- Burgers will always remain a firm favourite. Ask for it to be served on a wholegrain 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).