How We Can All Make Dining Out Healthier

Authored by the Let’s Go! Home Office

Let’s Go! works with partners across the state, partners who are devoted to decreasing childhood obesity rates through behavior change. Let’s Go! York County, a program of Partners for Healthier Communities at Southern Maine Health Care, offers us a great example of community outreach. The team is partnering with restaurants around York County to create greater awareness of healthy eating in sit-down settings. Participating sites will receive fun, educational “5-2-1-0” themed coloring placemats for children.Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 7.21.37 AM

To help build awareness about how our everyday choices impact our health and to get the word out about this great grass roots initiative we’re sharing the following story from Reegan Brown and Van Beckman, Let’s Go! Coordinators in York County.

Today it is much more common for American families to dine out on a regular basis. In the late 1970’s children ate only one out of every ten meals away from home, while fast food and dining out with friends or family were considered a rare treat; by 1999, the ratio had risen to one in every three meals. With children dining out with friends and family so often, the nutrition they are receiving should be cause for concern. After all, for busy parents getting children to eat healthy can be a challenge even at home!

Successful, healthy dining out requires extra vigilance. Restaurants often package children’s menus with options that are higher in calories and fat, especially when combined with a sugary drink. It is important to review the children’s menu and ask questions about how to create a healthier meal for your child. Consider half portions from the “adult menu” or sharing a plate with your child.  Eating healthy does not mean you have to avoid eating out altogether—just remember that it is ultimately up to you, the consumer, to make the healthier choice.

Fast FoodMany restaurants are making efforts to create healthier options and changing their menus to highlight those options; however, they still may have options available not appearing on the menu.  Restaurants may gladly cater to special requests if asked, and if they hear certain requests often enough they may even change the menu accordingly.  In this way one can be a trendsetter and also set a good example for the whole family!

For more tips on making healthy choices away from home check out our Healthy Fast Foods guide.