Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Know Your Menu Options

We decided to do dinner Saturday night for Father's Day. We met up with my brother-in-law, his two daughters, and my parents (my sister is out of town for school). For budgetary and convenience purposes, we chose a popular, affordable chain restaurant. Prior to visiting the restaurant, I checked out their online menu. I wanted to find something that I could order and share with Lydia. I'm slightly determined to lose a few pounds this summer (although I already weigh less than my pre-pregnancy weight - yay!). To begin any weight loss, I usually need to start by monitoring what I eat, then I add in more exercise. So anyway, the menu. After looking through the menu items, I clicked on the nutrition facts. I figured they had to have some healthy choices, especially since they have a 'lighter fare' portion of their menu. Yeah...no. There were only two dishes on the menu that were under 500 calories each - a pasta dish and a chicken dish. I chose the pasta, my husband chose the chicken.  Let me share with you some of the other menu items and how many calories they are:
  • Chicken parm - 1090 calories
  • Steak with gorgonzola sauce - 1310 calories
  • Grilled chicken caesar - 850 calories
  • Artichoke-spinach dip - 650 calories
  • Fettucine Alfredo - 1220 calories
There were many other choices, but as I said, only two that were under 500 calories. Now, here's the really bad part. Here are some of the choices on the children's menu:
  • Pizza - 470 calories
  • Milkshake - 500 - 530 calories (depending on flavor)
  • Grilled chicken w/fries - 400 calories
  • Fettucine Alfredo - 800 calories
So imagine your child orders the fettucine alfredo and a shake - that's over 1300 calories for one meal for a child!! I did some quick research on WebMD and found this information: a moderately active child between the ages of 4 - 8 should consume 1400 - 1600 calories a day. So in one meal at a popular restaurant, your child could potentially consume all the calories that he/she should eat in an entire day.

I like the idea of Lydia eating lots of different foods. She already eats whatever we are having for dinner (perhaps with a few modifications to the texture and flavor). I would never want to tell control her food as I believe food is meant to be enjoyed (as we gain important nutrients), but knowing that well-established restaurants create menus that do very little to promote healthy-eating in young children is scary. No wonder we have such a horrible obesity epidemic in this country! From what I heard on a show on the Food Network, our generation will be the first to have a longer life span than the offspring's generation. Much of that is because of the sedentary lifestyles so many children experience and the horrible food choices that people make for their children.

So what can we do to promote healthy, active lifestyles and choices for our children? Here's what I plan to do:
1. Practice what I preach. If I tell my child that watermelon is a good snack and I sit on the couch eating a bag of chips, how do I get her to buy in to what I am saying?
2. Model healthy activities. Swimming, taking walks, playing on the beach. There's no reason to spend a weekend sitting at home playing video games.
3. Show your children where food comes from. I think I stated it in a previous post, but I want Lydia to know where her food comes from, that people and animals work hard to get fresh food to the grocery store. Children will learn that cheese and chicken nuggets don't just come in pretty shapes like dinosaurs and stars.
4. Cook with your children. I always loved cooking. As a child, I would watch The Frugal Gourmet on PBS. I was amazed at all of the delicious-looking food Jeff Smith was able to prepare. I started writing little recipes in a notebook when I was probably no more than 7 or 8 years old. I remember that I asked my mom to make mashed potatoes and cover them with vegetables, like carrots, peas, and green beans, then bake it to get some sort of crust on top.
5. Keep healthy food in your house. I know this one is pretty obvious, but if you keep crap in your house, your kids will eat crap. If you keep healthy stuff in the house, your children will snack on healthy stuff.
6. Indulge! Children should know that you can eat ice cream and brownies and cookies and nachos - SOMETIMES. These are yummy treats that are meant to be shared and enjoyed. Treats like these aren't so special if you eat them everyday.

Anything special you do to keep your family healthy? How do you tackle the issue of your child ordering unhealthy food in a restaurant? Do you know of any good resources that grow with your child?

Tomorrow night, I am visiting a local store that is doing a presentation on healthy eating. Perhaps I can comment to my own blog post after that :-)


Elita said...

This is how I feel about going out to dinner at popular "chain" restaurants. The portions are huge and the food is full of sodium and fat, because they want it to taste good. If you only go out to dinner occasionally it's not a huge deal. What I always do is ask for a to-go box at the start of the meal and put half of it in the box. That way you're not tempted to eat all of it (of course if you have more willpower than me, you can just leave half on your plate.) As far as the kid's items, yes, that is a lot of fat and calories in one meal, but at 2 years old, my son could never finish one of those kids meals. We went to Chilis with my mom last week and I ordered him the pizza. He had 2 slices of it, some of my salad and some grapes I had brought. We took the rest of the pizza home and he had it for lunch the next day. Basically I feel like if I am going out to eat, I want to enjoy myself. So I eat a smaller portion of whatever sounds good and make sure I don't overdo it.

Elita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Huppie Mama said...

I try to do the same - or Richard and I will get one appetizer or salad and one meal and just share that. I do like that a lot of restaurants are making those mini-desserts now. After eating a meal out, I usually just one like 2 bites of something sweet, so those are pretty good. But still...the portions in restaurants now are ridiculous. And the portions are ridiculous not just because they are so big, but because the large portions usually contain a lot of what is cheap to make - potatoes, rice, pasta. All of the foods you shouldn't be eating in large quantities! Rarely do I order a piece of grilled fish and say..."wow, this portion of fish is too big" or "they gave me too much broccoli."

Jennifer said...

This is why we rarely go out. Its more affordable to eat good, whole, healthy foods if your food budget doesn't include a lot of meals out. There is a big salad bar in town that is great for kids and Jack prefers veggies, beans, and whole wheat pasta to just about anything else (except graham crackers haha) and they offer all of those things. Plus, he eats free!

Also, I so loved watching The Frugal Gourmet when I was a kid, too!

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