We know life can get overwhelming sometimes, and there may not always be time to cook at home. However, when eating out, kids tend to eat less nutritious foods. According to a Dell Center of Healthy Living report, 62.7% of 2nd graders eat at a restaurant on any giving school day. Of those, around 78.5% ate fried food, and 56.9% had a sugar-sweetened beverage. It doesn’t have to be this way! There are many ways to make eating out fun, but also healthy! HealthStart is here to give you some simple ways to make eating away from home healthier and how to make eating at home easier!
Tips for Eating Healthier at a Restaurant
1. Read the menu and make a plan before you go. It can be beneficial to plan ahead before you head to the restaurant. Luckily, most restaurants these days have their menus available on their websites for your convenience. When you have time to read through the menu, rather than being rushed to make a decision at a restaurant, you can make a plan to choose foods that are healthy and nutritious. For example, foods that contain nutrients like proteins, calcium, and antioxidants, such as chicken, veggies, and fruits!
2. Substitute side items like fries for fruits or veggies. Many entrees come with food on the side. Often, the main choice for this side item is fried food like french fries or tater tots. However, they are more than happy to substitute fried side items for fruits or veggies at many restaurants! Making this substitution can help increase the number of nutrients on your plate and better fuel your body!
3. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks. Too much sugar can put children at risk for obesity, tooth decay, and diabetes. Many kid’s drinks like lemonades or soda are very high in sugar and don’t provide kids with the nutrients they need to take care of their bodies. Instead of choosing a sweetened drink, try opting for good ol’ fashioned water or milk instead!
4. Don’t just stick to the kid’s menu! On many kid’s menus, most of the choices are fried or high in sugar. Sometimes, you may want to choose something on the main menu, or even the appetizers, that are higher in nutritional value, such as chicken, vegetables, or salads. You could also share foods with children or eat family style, so they have more choices than if they had gotten only one entree from the kid’s menu. Branching out from the kid’s menu gives kids more options to choose from and allows them to try new foods!
5. Add veggies to menu items. Adding extra veggies can help add more nutrients and help kids eat more healthy foods, rather than fried or sweetened foods! For example, you can add veggies as toppings on pizzas or sandwiches. If kids won’t go for your typical veggie-filled meal, adding extra veggies is an excellent compromise to increase nutritional value!
Tips to Make Eating at Home Easier
1. Meal prep. Prepping lunches and dinners earlier in the week can help you eat out less and save you time when you’re busier later on in the week. Also, it is a good idea to cut up fruits and veggies ahead of time to have healthy snack options throughout the week! This Burrito Bowl is a great recipe to prep early in the week, so you can enjoy a healthy meal later on when you’re busier!
2. Make it fun. Try exploring new foods or cooking foods that you really enjoy! This can make you more motivated and excited to eat at home. Not feeling inspired? Use things like cookbooks or food blogs to find new and interesting recipes to try.
3. Follow simple recipes. Cooking can be a daunting task. Not everything you cook has to be extravagant with tons of ingredients. Following simple and quick recipes can make the cooking experience less stressful and challenging. Plus, simple recipes are great for getting your child involved with the cooking process! Check out HealthStart's Recipe page with lots of ideas for simple and delicious meals the whole family will enjoy.
4. Stock your fridge. It’s much easier to eat at home if you have a variety of food ready to eat or cook in your fridge and pantry. Shopping frequently can make eating at home easier because it keeps the fridge almost always stocked with fresh produce and healthy foods to cook. However, not everyone has the time to go to the grocery store that often. If that’s the case, it can be helpful to plan your meals for the week and make a grocery list so you can get everything you need to enjoy meals at home without going to the store every day. Also, try stocking your fridge with quick additions for meals, like dressings and sauces, raw and pickled veggies, or spices and herbs. Having these on hand makes it easy to liven up a meal in a pinch!
5. Be realistic. Eating at home and making extravagant meals isn’t always realistic. And that’s ok! With some of the tips in this blog post, eating away from home can still be nutritious, and cooking meals at home doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time!
We would love to see how you eat healthier when at home and in restaurants! Leave us a comment down below and let us know. Also, don’t forget to follow along on social media for healthy and simple recipes that you can make at home!