How Can I Find the Best Choices at Restaurants for My Whole Family?

Schools nationwide have opened their doors for a new academic year launching the annual back-to-school rush.  Families like yours are once again falling into a busy routine of school, homework and after-school activities, making family meals a little harder to come by.  There’s no doubt, according to research, that these family meals can have a positive impact on kids for years to come, so good for you for still making healthy meals a priority.  The trick is to fit those meals in without sacrificing health. 

That’s where restaurants come in. Restaurants have you covered both for convenience and good-for-you choices.

When eating out at restaurants with the family, whether you’re opting for drive-through, take out or sit down, it’s important to order the best choices for everyone in the family to help build healthy habits and keep everyone energized.  Here’s how:

  • Know your go-to restaurants: If you’re loyal to certain restaurants, get to know their menus.  Look at the nutrition information and ingredient lists to identify several choices that are high in nutrition and quality ingredients while low in saturated fat and excess calories. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make requests to find the best choice.
  • Search for dietitian-recommended menu choices near you: Healthy Dining’s dietitians comb through menus at restaurants coast to coast to identify the best choices that meet Healthy Dining nutrition criteria.  These featured items can save you the time of sifting through lengthy nutrition charts on your own, especially when time is short.
  • Focus on ingredients: When nutrition information or dietitian-recommended menu choices are not available, turn the focus to foods with the MyPlate model in mind.  Order choices that include roughly half fruits and veggies, along with lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy.
  • Make choice a key component: When everyone in the family has different tastes, restaurants can save the day!  Many restaurants offer long lists of healthier entrées and sides that make it easy to build good-for-you meals for every taste, dietary need and preference.  For younger children, be sure to offer a smaller number of healthier options.  For example “Would you rather have apple slices or grapes?  Broccoli or salad?”  These choices are the building blocks to lifetime healthy habits.

Your time is valuable.  Don’t let the back-to-school schedule cut into family time, health or your sanity.  Rely on restaurants to save you time with the best choices for you and your family.

How do you and your family find the best choices for your health and tastes at restaurants?  How do you make healthier family meals a priority even when time is short?