Healthy Guide to Eating Out
Step 2: Drink to their health
Surprisingly, you should encourage your kid to drink milk when dining out.
An 8-ounce carton of low-fat milk packs 30 percent of your kid's daily calcium,
8 percent of magnesium, 11 percent of potassium, and 25 percent of vitamin D —
bone-building, blood pressure-lowering nutrients shortchanged in many kids'
diets. It also supplies 8 grams of fill-you-up protein, all for just 100
calories. The USDA recommends that kids get two to three servings of low-fat or
fat-free dairy a day, but they're not getting enough: In one study that tracked
2,371 girls for a decade, milk consumption dropped more than 25 percent while
soda consumption almost tripled. "It's difficult for kids who aren't getting
three servings of milk or other dairy products a day to meet their calcium
needs," Swinney notes. To control calories and saturated fat, ask for fat-free
or low-fat milk; we discovered that many chains stock it, even if it's not on
the menu. If a restaurant doesn't stock low-fat, go for chocolate, which is
usually made with low-fat milk. Even whole milk is all right on occasion — the
nutrients are worth a few extra calories. (Steer clear, however, of ultra-rich
hot chocolate, which at Panera Bread packs a hefty 390 calories and 12 grams of
saturated fat; low-fat chocolate milk, on the other hand, contains just 158
calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat.)
Just say no to juice. "Parents think it's a good way to get another serving
of fruit, but it lacks fiber and is high in calories," says Wootan. "Whole
fruit is always a better choice." Of course, avoid soda, milkshakes, and fruit
drinks — they're essentially liquid candy that encourages weight gain. The
damage: A child-size cola packs about 95 to 110 calories; a 32-ouncer, a
whopping 250 to 400. Milkshakes contain 350 to more than 1,000 calories apiece
(and 10 to 26 grams of fat), and fruit drinks and slushes aren't much better,
with 100 to 600-plus calories per serving.
Step 3: Get produce on their plates
Rare is the child who spontaneously orders mixed greens with balsamic
vinaigrette. In fact, researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that
nearly all children and teens (75 to 95 percent) don't get enough veggies,
especially dark green or orange varieties, and a quarter of children ages 1 to
8 and three quarters of older children and teens don't get enough fruit. What's
more, those who eat fast food frequently get even less than those who do not.
"Make produce — not french fries — the side dish of choice with burgers,
sandwiches, even pizza," Cassetty says. "Kids need the fiber, the antioxidants,
the vitamins and minerals. Vegetables also fill you up for very few calories,
so they counter the calorie and fat overload of restaurant food."