Today’s parents are mindful of making sure their kids are eating healthy. How to get your child to eat vegetables can be even more challenging when you’re going out. We turned to our friends at Hy-Vee for some fresh suggestions on how to help. Nutrition expert and registered Hy-Vee dietitian Megan Callahan, MS, RD, LD, is also past president of the Kansas City Dietetic Association, and a mom herself.
To help set up your family for success to eat healthy when eating out, Megan offers these surprisingly simple tips (i.e. no need to buy special tools or create artistic masterpieces):
1 Check the menu before you go.
It’s a genius idea to look at the menu online before leaving home. Then you can make a plan you agree on, and you’re not in a pressure situation with tired, hungry kids hanging on you trying to figure out what to eat last minute. It’s so much easier to stick to the plan you already set, and really alleviates giving in to the not-as-healthy options.
2 Look for key words.
As you peruse the menu, find descriptive terms related to how food is prepared. If you see words like batter fried or pan fried, buttered, creamed, breaded … those words mean more fat and more calories. Instead, look for words like baked, grilled, braised, broiled, poached, roasted or steamed – those healthy cooking terms mean less fat and fewer calories.
3 Watch portions.
Often serving sizes at restaurants are large enough to consider splitting a meal with your child. That way, you’re not only watching your portion, they are, too. And hopefully you’re eating healthy and they get to see your good choices!
“I think one of the most important things to remember is that at the end of the day, we are the parent,” Megan says. “We are responsible for what is being served and what behaviors are acceptable during mealtimes. Sometimes we lose sight of that.”
Do you often feel like a “short order cook” at home? Megan says if so, you’re not alone. She often hears frustrated clients say they have trouble getting their kids to eat what’s put on their plate. She encourages parents not to give up.
“The process is all about getting new or healthy foods in front of kids multiple times. Decide you’re not going to make something different for everyone, and tell your kids, ‘What’s served is served.’ Sometimes they will eat it and sometimes they won’t.”
The messages you convey at home will translate when you eat out. Megan cautions about using food as a treat. “You don’t want to make food a reward or a punishment because then vegetables and fruit become a negative thing. It also encourages power struggles. Instead, she suggests, use the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the time enjoy healthy choices and 20 percent of the time use moderation and allow eating some of the things that aren’t as healthy for us.
When we designed our Paradise Café menu, we had the family’s health in mind. Everything is baked in our café, including our French fries which are baked in our greaseless fryer. For kids, we offer fruit cups and veggie cups. We also have healthy options that include gluten-free pizzas, wraps and salads. Many of our selections are fresh and made to order. And we’ve added “grab and go” healthy items, including a variety of wraps.
So next time you’re planning a visit to the Park, check out our menu online before you come, just like Megan suggests!
You can also reach Megan at Hy-Vee if you have more questions for her: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan Callahan is a Lee’s Summit East Hy-Vee dietitian. She is dedicated to helping people live healthier and happier lives. Megan received a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Missouri State University. She completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where she also received her Master of Science degree in dietetics and nutrition. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). With a passion for nutrition and wellness, Megan is dedicated to educating customers and promoting healthy lifestyles at Lee’s Summit East Hy-Vee grocery store. Megan offers a wide range of programs and services that include wellness, weight loss, diabetes, heart health, food allergies and other disease-specific needs. To contact Megan, please email her at email@example.com.