Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Healthy Guide to Eating Out

Step 4: Nudge them toward lean main dishes. continued...

Turn appetizers and soups into entrées. Scope out the starters on the adult menu for wise nutritional buys. Among the options we found were a 160-calorie bowl of low-fat chicken noodle soup at Panera Bread (pair with a salad or whole-grain bread) and 440-calorie Asian dumplings at Ruby Tuesday (with a side veggie). Perfect for smaller, adventurous appetites. Tip: Steer your kid toward bean soups, if possible; they're high in fiber and antioxidants.

Borrow from the main menu. Granted, grown-up dinner entrées can be expensive, but if two family members split a dish, it can be a win-win, nutritionally and financially. At Chili's, the Guiltless Grilled Salmon has just 395 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat (add some side dishes to make a meal of it); the chicken fajitas at Red Robin with guacamole and sautéed vegetables (hold the sour cream, melted margarine, and garlic-parmesan spread) clock in at 810 calories and 21 grams of fat.

Step 5: Orchestrate Their Orders

It is, of course, much easier to order for little kids (or at least steer their choices) than it is to convince a teenager that what he really wants is a nice chopped salad and some milk versus a chili-cheeseburger and a bottomless glass of root beer. But it can be done, if you know how to guide a tween's or teen's choices:

Walk the talk. Order first — before your kids do — and order wisely, suggests Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota and author of I'm, Like, SO Fat!: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World. "If you order salad, your kids will be more likely to do so," she notes. "It sets the tone."

Steer tweens around the menu. Laura Plunkett, 45, a mom of two teens in Marblehead, MA, took control by reading through the menu and suggesting choices to her kids when they were preteens. "We kept it positive," Laura says. "We'd say things like, 'The kids' menu doesn't have good options today' and 'Here are items that look good from the regular menu.' That really helped guide their choices."

Don't dictate to teens. "Telling teens what to order or criticizing a choice they've made is counterproductive," says Anne Fletcher, R.D., author of Weight Loss Confidential: How Teens Lose Weight and Keep It Off — and What They Wish Parents Knew. "They're going to exercise independence in a restaurant. One thing that's worked is to suggest sharing things to minimize the damage — 'Why don't you share the fries?' or 'Let's split that milkshake.'"

Arm them with info. "People don't give teens enough credit for caring about healthy food," says Sage Farrar, who teaches kids about nutrition as a HealthCorps coordinator at Miami Coral Park Senior High School in Miami. "They crave information and they can be trusted to do the right thing. Compare food labels together, talk about the fat and calories in fast food (say, compare grilled chicken with extra crispy and ask why they think there's such a big difference). Tell them that eating healthy will help fill them up and give them energy. You'll make a lot more progress that way than if you try to mandate what they should or shouldn't eat." Says Fletcher: "Think about things that might motivate them: Tell them that they'll also get stronger faster, look better, do better in school and in sports, and have more energy. They listen much more than you think." And that's a fact you should work to your advantage — for their health's sake.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow