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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."

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