Is Your Kid’s Meal Really Happy?

We’ve all been there. A fast food meal is quick and convenient, especially when you and your kids are on the go for activities and events. Over the years, restaurants have increased efforts to include healthy options in their meals. But is your kid’s meal really happy and healthy?

“Not all restaurants are created equal,” said Cheri Harrison, MS, LCPC, pediatric program coordinator for Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center. “There are some establishments that offer whole grains, fiber and protein in their meals, but many kids’ meals include minimally nutritious foods.”

Here are some tips to help you make healthy choices for your children when eating out:

  • Pay attention to sugar content. Restaurants are required to provide nutrition information on the menu. A quick review will help alert you to added sugars in foods. Encourage children to eat foods and consume drinks with fewer added sugars.
  • Avoid fried foods. Fried foods increase the calorie content of foods significantly. In some kids’ meals, children will receive more than half of their daily calorie needs, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Choose grilled or baked choices instead.
  • Opt for milk or water. Soda and flavored, sweetened beverages have no nutritional value and are unnecessary added sugars.
  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread are an important source of nutrients and fiber.
  • Request fruits and vegetables. Whenever available, request fruit options without added sugars and add vegetables to your child’s meal. Choose fresh fruit over fruit juice.

“Poor food choices can have serious results including obesity and obesity-related illnesses like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” Harrison said. “Helping your children make healthy food choices when they are young will benefit them throughout their lives.”

Interested in healthy eating education for your family?

Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center offers a healthy families program for kids, teens and families.

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