This is not a newsflash: as a general rule, we eat more when we eat out. So ... if you want to lose weight or avoid weight gain, it's a good idea to limit how often you eat out. Many of my posts deal with how to eat at home more often, more easily, more healthfully & more enjoyably.
Yet, I eat out 1-3 times per week. Every weekend, my husband & I take our daughter out once for lunch, usually breakfast on the other day, occasionally a dinner out on Friday. We all enjoy the experiences. My husband & I like being waited on & not having to do dishes. (There. I said it.) On a hot Florida day, it's nice to go into an overly air-conditioned restaurant and just sit. Our daughter loves to stare at new people and make the occasional friend.
Now, 1-3 times weekly is below average according to a recent LivingSocial survey. Still, given that I'm a working mom, it's a good quarter of the meals I share with my daughter. So it is very important to me that I still model and encourage healthy choices at our meals out.
Here are some tricks & tips that have worked for us:
- Plan ahead
- Even small chains have their menus online. Often they post nutrition information as well. If not, you likely can find information for a representative item on one of the many calorie counting websites or smart-phone apps.
- Sharing is caring
- Our daughter is only 18-months. It's kind of a no-brainer that she doesn't need a kids' meal at this point. Given most restaurant portions, I think it will be a few years before she really does.
- At a local BBQ place, we recently ordered 2 dinners, which each came with 2 sides. We gave her a little of each our main dishes and a little of a couple sides. There were still leftovers!
- At a local sports bar (watching our Cornhuskers!), I ordered a kids' meal + a cup of chili. She & I split the meal, and I had the chili. It was a perfect amount of food.
- Veggies first
- As a general rule at home, we offer our daughter her veggies before we bring out the meat & starch. We find that she eats her veggies much better this way. (It's not a bad idea for adults, by the way!) We've taken to doing the same out to eat. Yes, this requires you to ask the server to do something out of the ordinary. If they look at you funny, dock their tip. (Not really; I used to be a server.) At that local BBQ place? We ordered an extra side of green beans & asked that they come out first. She devoured them. ... So did we; I think they were boiled in butter + a ham hock, but still!
Part 2 - Vacation
There's the eating out we do every week ... then there's Vacation ...
As previously discussed, loved ones can inadvertently sabotage our best eating intentions. Family & friends often express love through food. I have been guilty of this myself. When you only see your extended family once or twice each year like I do, you may find yourself trying to make up for lost time and shove all food traditions into a few days! This does not have to spell disaster for your waistline or the habits you want your child to develop.
A few simple strategies can help. I did just that on my trip last week with my daughter to visit my family in Nebraska. Actually, they are the same strategies I just gave above. We just need to apply them a little differently. So, here we go again:
- Plan ahead
- Think through what you'll be doing throughout the vacation. Decide what's most important to you. Most likely, you'll need to give a little on a thing or two. (Unless you want to drive yourself crazy, not to mention the people you're visiting.) In my case, I knew that our usual "schedule" (3 meals & 2 snacks without grazing in between) might not survive flights, lots of driving, and - oh, yeah - other toddlers. I decided the content mattered more to me. My mom (who arrived in Nebraska ahead of me) helped out by having some of our favorite healthy snacks on hand. I also knew there would be a couple of "party dinners," so on those days, we were especially careful to have healthier breakfasts, lunches & snacks.
- Sharing is caring
- In this case, I mean modeling. I will admit to hitting the candy drawer once or twice when my daughter was napping. But for the most part, I did as I preached. A nice side-effect - I ate less junk than I normally do when on vacation!
- Veggies first
- And fruits! Whatever we were eating, I still gave my daughter her veggies first (or fruit at breakfast). Fruit was also often our dessert or our snacks. The one time I felt like a big fail in that department was on our flights back. On the flights out, I managed to have fresh fruit in my carry-on. Somehow that didn't happen on the way back. The 15-month-old across the aisle on our last plane had a Buddy Fruits squeezer-thingy. I just looked them up, and they look like a pretty good option. Sure you lose some fiber, but they are 100% fruit, and probably very unlikely to come out my backpack bruised & worthy only of being tossed in the trash. So ... next time!
Oh ... and did I mention that she also saw where some of her food comes from? :)
What are your strategies for eating well on the go?