Healthy Snacks: Eat Healthy When Your Kids are On the Go

July 5, 2011

By Healthy Child Staff

When you’re home, you are master of your domain. You control what comes into the kitchen and what lands on your children’s plates. But what happens when you’re not at home – when you’re traveling, fighting traffic, waiting at the airport, running late or stuck at the mall and your child is starving?

The fear of drive through and fast food restaurants has been drilled into most of us (and for those of you who aren’t sufficiently disgusted, this slide show of the top American fast food sins will convert you). But sometimes there’s no avoiding a meal out at a less than healthy establishment. So here are some tips and guidelines for smart ordering and healthy practices when eating out.

1. Fast Food Does Not Mean Fried Food. In response to consumer demand, it’s increasingly easier to find healthy, convenient alternatives to fried foods on fast food menus. Opt for anything that is grilled, steamed, roasted, or baked, or try an entrée-sized salad (see Tip 2). And keep your eye out for leaner cuts of meats like skinless chicken breasts, turkey burgers, and beef sirloin. Other healthier menu options are bean burritos, a slice of veggie pizza, a salad or fruit bowl, or a deli sandwich on whole wheat bread.

2. Avoid High-Fat Add-Ons. Request salad dressing, sauce, cheese, or toppings on the side so you can apply sparingly, instead of drenching your meal in empty calories and through the roof sodium levels.

3. Mind the Portions. Restaurant portions have been growing in size for years (from large to enormous). In the 1950s, the average size of a hamburger was 1.5 ounces, while today’s burgers weigh in at around 8 ounces. Share entrees between your family or take the other half of it to go!

4. Drink Water. Soda, sweetened iced tea and lemonades, energy drinks and most juices are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and empty calories. Make H2O the beverage of choice for everyone, and skip the plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups by refilling your own container, like a stainless steel water bottle, with filtered water.

5. Avoid the “Cream”, Opt for the “Color.” Meal choices with the words Alfredo, a la crème, au gratin, or described as “creamy” will likely be smothered in a heavy, artificially enhanced sauce. On the other hand, foods that reflect the colors of the rainbow are usually a healthier choice. Many kid’s meals end up as a plate of “beige”, all starch, breads, and sauces. Picking a colorful fruit or veggie salad will automatically up the nutritional content of your meal.

6. Make Substitutions. Don’t be afraid to speak up about the ingredients or preparation of your food if it will make it healthier. Ask for meat to be grilled “light”, with as little butter or oil as possible. Request salsa or mustard, instead of mayonnaise or sugar-filled ketchup for your sandwich. Request sour cream instead of butter for your baked potato. Ask to have a side salad or fruit instead of fries. The extent to which servers will go to make you happy might surprise you.

7. Find the Healthy Options! Use this fantastic tool from Eat Well to map out restaurants in the area that serve organic, local and healthy fare. With a little research and a GPS, you’re instantly connected to restaurants that share your values.

8. As Always, Plan Ahead. Keep your purse, bag, and car ready for moments when hunger strikes and a healthy snack is in need. Dried fruits, granola, mixed nuts, apples, oranges, and cereals stay fresh and transport easily – especially with the array of cool, non-toxic containers available.