For some families, eating out is occasional but for others it happens weekly or any number of times a week, especially in the holidays.
As a parent, it is important to keep in mind that you need to teach your children to make healthy food choices because they will carry those teachings well into adulthood.
Make it a special treat
Limit going out to a treat for special occasions like birthdays and celebrations, or as a reward when the kids have excelled at something.
The biggest problem with fast food outlets and restaurants is that most of them are guilty in some way or the other of using too much oil or the wrong type of oil in food preparation. Oil that is used for frying foods develops unhealthy by-products when overused and these oils often end up in poor communities at cheap prices for cooking.
If you go out to a reputable restaurant or fast food outlet, the try to choose from their healthy option side of the menu (quite a few are sporting these now!). Or if you choose a restaurant like the Spur, then rather replace the chips and fried onion rings with a plate of veggies or salads.
Tips to making healthier food choices for your kids
1. Do not overeat.
Young kids can order a plate to share because restaurant portions are very big. All you have to do is to get an extra side plate. Teach them that it is okay to stop eating when they are full, they do not have to finish the whole plate of food.
2. Order a salad or veggies on the side.
Kids’ meals rarely come with veggies unless you ask to replace something else. They will also learn that veggies should form part of every meal. Order sauces like mushroom sauce or salad dressing on the side, that way the kids can add as little of the sauce or dressing as they want.
3. Order grilled meat and fish instead of fried.
Teach your kids a preference for grilled rather than fried foods from a young age and they will acquire the taste for it. This helps in cutting down the kilojoules that come from fat in the diet. If you are taking the kids out to ‘tshisinyama’ then be careful not to add any sauces, as these can add a lot of unnecessary kilojoules, unless you know what has gone into the sauce.
4. Order plain rice or baked potato instead of chips.
This will also help to cut down on the fat because remember, it is not the potato that is not good for you but rather the way the potato is prepared!
5. Skip the dessert
If they love dessert - as is the case with most kids - they can share it with another person. Sorbet ice cream and a good serving of fruit salad make for a good choice.
6. For the drinks you can choose sparkling fruit juices, fruit juice and even flavoured water as a treat when out with the kids instead of the high sugar fizzy drinks that they like so much!
What do your kids order when you eat out?