My kids have eaten their share of kids’ meals at restaurants. As a mother, I am certainly cognizant of what they eat and do my best to provide them with healthy choices at every meal. As a parent, it is my responsibility to teach them to make smart choices, and for the most part, they get it. I am preparing them for the times when I won’t be there to control their diet.
For now, though, I am the boss. And my kids know that. They are used to my questions to servers when we start to order and don’t get too embarrassed when I send back food that is less than desirable. My expectations are high, whether fast food or fine dining.
For any casual dining restaurants, here are just a few of the questions I ask before we order:
- Can we get the chicken (shrimp, fish) grilled? Most casual dining restaurants have a grilled option available on the adult menu, so ask your server if that option is available on the kids’ menu. You would be surprised at how many will make the accommodation
- Do you have side choices other than French fries? Side salad, fruit, some type of vegetable. Kids will eat when they are hungry, and if French fries are available at several times a week, then that’s what they will have. Offer healthier sides, and kids will gradually make those choices on their own. It’s unreasonable to expect children that eat unhealthy food multiple times a week to make healthy choices on own. They practice what their parents teach them.
- Can you tell me about the portions? 4 large chicken fingers in a kids’ meal is too much food. If you have 2 kids, have them share a kids’ meal and perhaps order an additional side. My 7 year old will often share meals with me since the adult portions are often more than I need.
I was thrilled to take my kids to Heirloom Eats in Mt. Pleasant last week and see the choices on the menu. Yes, there was Fried Chicken, but there was also a non-fried option. Yes, there were French fries, but there were also fresh green beans. I asked about fruit, and the option was available (fresh melon, berries). The portions were large, so when we do return, I’ll have my 2 kids share a meal. I had the Farmhouse Salad, and I suggested they a pint-size version of this to the kids’ menu. The Lemon Vinaigrette dressing on my salad was even a hit with my son … light and fresh and very summer! (and I saved $7.90 on 2 kids’ meals since kids eat for $1 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays).
Knowledge is power, and when we know the questions to ask, it’s easier to make positive choices for our kids … particularly ones that will serve them in their future.
Here's to being an informed consumer and teaching our kids the same!
Jennifer Bilbro is the Founder of OutToEatWithKids.com, an online resource and mobile application designed to help families search for economical & healthy children’s meals. Visit OutToEatWithKids.com for more information or submit your restaurant info to email@example.com