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Healthy Guide to Eating Out

Step 3: Get produce on their plates continued...

For kids who turn up their noses at the usual menu options (salads or cooked broccoli), try these tips:

Look for fun stuff. KFC and Chili's were among the eateries offering corn on the cob. A 51⁄2-inch ear of corn with butter flavor at KFC had 140 calories, almost no sodium, and 4 grams of fiber. "Veggies you can pick up to eat are fun, and they take longer to eat, so your child will fill up on fewer calories," Swinney notes. (Yes, corn is starchy, but it's fiber-rich and lower in calories and fat than fries; just avoid adding extra butter.)

Customize your pizza with several vegetable toppings and half the cheese. You'll cut the fat, and kids could get at least one official vegetable serving in two slices.

Check the adult options if you or your kid doesn't like the veggies on the kids' menu. Red Lobster offers fresh asparagus in season, Chili's has marinated portobello mushrooms, Bob Evans has glazed carrots, and Ruby Tuesday has creamy mashed cauliflower that delivers 5 grams of fiber, among other options. Bonus tip: Let "Why don't you just try it?" be your fallback phrase. Swinney says it takes 10 to 15 exposures to a new food for a kid to really know whether she likes it.

Don't forget about fruit. "Since it's usually raw, there's no added fat or sodium the way there can be with vegetables," Swinney notes. We found apple slices at McDonald's, Burger King, and Subway; mandarin oranges at Wendy's and Chili's; seasonal fresh fruit and cinnamon apples at Denny's; melon wedges at Red Robin; and fruit salad or fruit cup at Chik-fil-A, Così, and Panera Bread — to name just a few.

Step 4: Nudge them toward lean main dishes.

A few key moves to make:

Subtract the sauce, cheese, and bacon. This makes a tremendous difference: A plain Whopper Jr. has a reasonable 290 calories and 12 grams of fat — fine for a tween or teen once in a while — but add cheese and mayo, and the numbers catapult up to 420 calories and 25 grams of fat. At Red Robin, a California Chicken Burger with everything on it packs 57 grams of fat; hold all the sauces, cheese, guacamole, and bacon, and it plummets to a manageable 9 grams of fat.

Give up the crunch. We know, we know: You've heard before that you should point your kids toward grilled — not crispy or fried — chicken and fish. But let these numbers convince you just how vital this is: At Red Lobster, the kids' broiled fish has 150 calories and just 1 gram of fat, while the kids' chicken fingers pack 414 calories and 24 grams of fat. At Chili's, the Pepper Pals Grilled Chicken Platter for kids has a reasonable 150 calories and 1 gram of fat, while the Country Fried Chicken Crispers have an astounding 560 calories and 37 grams of fat. (If your kid really craves something crunchy, order him a side salad — with dressing is OK — and ask your server to go heavy on the crisp veggies like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers.)

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