Trying to feed your kids healthy options when dining out isn’t always easy. When we first started taking Audrey to restaurants I never worried about this because I would just give her very small bites of whatever we were eating. Now that she’s older and requires a proper meal I look to the kids menu. The dishes are cheaper, smaller, and easy for a toddler to eat. And while there are a handful of restaurants that have surprised me with healthier kids menus (i.e. food that isn’t fried, smothered in cheese, or lacking a vegetable in sight) they are few and far between. Most offer the usual mac n’ cheese, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, or cheeseburger with fries. Delicious? Absolutely. But the calories, fat and sodium on these items is through the roof. I never deprive Audrey of these fun kid options, but every now and then I tweak them in a way I can feel good about – and that I know will make her feel good. With a few minor adjustments you can give a quick nutritional boost to the dishes most kids love:
- Mac N’ Cheese – I love when a menu has sautéed broccoli as a side dish. I cut the stems off and serve the “tree” part cut into little pieces mixed in the with the mac. No broccoli? See if they have a side of peas, cooked carrots or chopped tomatoes to mix in.
- Chicken Fingers – Generally served with fries, this is fried food on top of fried food. I like to sub the fries for a healthier vegetable side dish or a side of fruit (or at least order one of these in addition to the fries). Another idea: keep the fries and ask for a piece of grilled chicken cut into slices instead of the fried chicken. Isn’t it all about the honey mustard anyway?
- Cheeseburger – Sub the french fries for a kid-friendly side salad of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. Also, ask for a wheat bun. You never know if a restaurant has a wheat/whole-grain alternative and it never hurts to ask.
- Grilled Cheese – I simply ask for tomato and/or avocado added to the sandwich.
* The above pic is from one of our favorite restaurants, Bubby’s in Tribeca. They have sautéed broccoli as a side on their kids’ menu – along with mac n’ cheese…