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Eating Out: What You Can Do

Eating out can be hard to resist. You get a ready-made meal quickly; the food tastes good (and your children will eat it!); it may be inexpensive; and advertisements for all kinds of restaurants are EVERYWHERE so they are hard to ignore. Then, there is the entertainment value for a lot of them. Unfortunately, a lot of the food options available at these restaurants are unhealthy.

Below are some steps that you can take to lessen the effects of fast food on your children’s health. Remember: These foods are not necessarily bad, but you want to bring balance to your children’s diet to help maintain, or return to, a healthy weight.

STEP 1: 

Limit the frequency with which you feed your children foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. The occasional high-calorie meal is fine; the problem lies in too much, too often.

To Do: Let your child help you shop and choose a menu for dinner at home. Helping at the grocery store and in the kitchen makes young children more aware of fresh foods that are good for them.


STEP 2: 

Treat foods high in fat, salt, and sugar as just that—treats. Make sure that these foods are eaten only occasionally.

To Do: Show your child the nutrition contents on packages, including calories, sugar, and salt. Although he or she may not be old enough to read nutritional labels, do some comparisons as you purchase healthier foods. Educate them on the nutrition contents for healthy foods versus unhealthy foods so they can choose better food options in the future.


STEP 3: 

When ordering meals at a restaurant, choose alternatives to foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. Many restaurants now provide a wider selection of choices.

To Do: Help your child plan a different meal at his or her favorite restaurant. Milk can replace a soft drink, a roasted chicken breast can replace a hamburger, or fruit and vegetables can replace french fries.


STEP 4: 

It is never too early to introduce your children to healthy eating habits. Give them fruit and raw vegetables as snack foods. 

To Do: Keep fruits and vegetables on hand when away from home in order to avoid purchasing unhealthy food options while you are out. It is also the more inexpensive option. 


STEP 5: 

Model healthy eating habits. Your children will do as you do—and won’t do as you don’t!

To Do: Order your food first at a restaurant to model the healthier choices. Then help your children select their meals.


STEP 6: 

DO NOT use food as a reward (if you are good, I will give you a cookie) OR a punishment (if you act out, you’re not getting french fries).

To Do: Rather than using food, reward children with special one-on-one time, a trip to the park, or a chance to pick the movie the family will watch on TV.


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Updated on 4/5/2013