Robin's Healthy Take: Eating With Kids at a Restaurant

Eating out with kids doesn't have to be stressful -- find out the healthiest menu choices for kids and strategies for eating out with your family.

I'm sure you think I cook dinner every night but, the truth is, I eat out with my boys a decent amount. Sometimes it's because we head straight from school to soccer to chess and there's no time to run home. Other times, when I've been testing recipes and cooking all day, I just want someone else to serve the food. Plus, I love games and we always play something while we wait for the meal: Scrabble, Blink, Spot It, Uno, hangman, tic-tac-toe or word search. This week, I'm traveling with my buddies and we made up a game – we created tee pees with our silverware while waiting for breakfast!

Food-wise, my kids love everything but eating out with picky eaters can be daunting. My boys didn't start out with open minds and palates, but I used a few tricks to get them started and here they are:

The best choices on the children’s menu are typically the following:

Pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese
Plain pasta with a little butter and parmesan cheese
Individual pizzas
Grilled burgers with cheese, lettuce and tomato
Quesadillas, with or without chicken
Salads with carrots, cucumber cherry tomatoes and dressing

Grilled or roasted chicken breast or chicken skewers with barbecue dipping sauce

Baked and roasted potatoes
Fresh fruit
Steamed seasonal vegetables

Don't feel obligated to stick to the children's menu just because you have little ones. If your kids like grilled chicken and the children’s choice is fried fingers, order an adult meal (bring leftovers home if you have to).

Swap salads and steamed/sautéed veggies for French fries. My kids always ask for broccoli over fries because I did that from day one. Sweet potato fries are a better choice if they "fight you" on the fry thing. Roasted potatoes are even better.

Order 2-3 appetizers instead of one main dish. This gives kids more choices and, let's face it, if they don't like the ONE dish they have, you're stuck. Great appetizers include: mixed green salads, Caesar salad with grilled chicken, chilled shrimp and crab, soup, sliders, quesadillas, fresh guacamole and salsa, hummus with pita or vegetables, cheese, olives, crab cakes, and beef or chicken kebabs.

For two kids, order 3 kids' meals and let them split the third thing (again, this provides variety).

Here's what I ordered for dinner the day I wrote this post: angel hair pasta with meatballs, side salad with ranch and, for dessert, fresh strawberries and vanilla yogurt with bananas.

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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