How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier in a Restaurant
You know the scene, you are sitting in a restaurant, maybe you are on vacation, maybe, say at the Happiest Place on Earth. So much sugar has already been consumed that you all just need a good, balanced meal. Your kid orders something from the kid’s menu, now new and improved with veggies and fruit and brown rice choices, and the kid picks green beans with their pizza! The plate comes and you silently say to yourself, “That looks gross.” When your kid refuses to eat it you say, out loud, “It’s perfectly fine, just eat it.”
Stop it! No it’s not and lying isn’t going to help.
The truth is, despite the newly embraced healthy choices on kid’s menus, there are still major culinary issues keeping your kids from actually eating those healthier foods. A general lack of seasoning and overcooking are prevalent. Subpar ingredients abound. Sometimes, it’s not even cooked. I can’t tell you the amount of times my son’s dad whispers to me, “It really doesn’t taste good,” after some frustrated moment of plate rejection. “Here, eat mine instead,” I say and glory be, he does.
I know kids in general are lying manipulators out to get you, but occasionally, give them the benefit of the doubt. And do not lie to them about food. Ever. Telling a kid something tastes good when it doesn’t is the parenting equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me.” You are gaslighting them—why the hell would they believe you when you distinguish something as good or bad when you say everything is edible. You are training their taste buds to eat crap. You are letting the sugar and salt win!
Speaking from many, many meals of experience, here’s what you can do:
1. Taste it before you say it is fine.
No really, eat it yourself. This will be life changing. If you make a face, well, get ready to share your plate and agree with your kid—yep, tastes gross. They will learn to trust you when you say a food is good or bad.
2. Fix it.
Most times, the veggies on the plate just aren’t seasoned (lord knows why, as if salt and pepper aren’t things kids can handle). Truly one of the great mysteries of life: Why steamed, unseasoned broccoli is served to kids is beyond me. True story. I once salt and peppered some rejected green beans and then, the kid ATE THEM.
3. Order it correctly.
Yes, your little pain-in-the-um-apple-of-your-eye only likes his/her carrots cooked medium-soft. If they are mushy, forget the beta carotene burst. So first, ask how the veggies are cooked. Once you have an answer, you’ve got two paths: Order them specifically the way you know your kid likes ‘em or change the order if they’re coming in a manner you know the kid just ain’t gonna eat. Wasting food is also a bad habit to teach them. Same deal with fruit. Ask what fruit is in the “fruit cup” before defaulting to it.
4. Get off the damn kids menu.
Do they like shrimp? Does that shrimp come with properly cooked and prepared side dishes? Great, order it and share it or let them order it, eat shrimp to their heart's content, and take the rest home for the next day. It will be cheaper, I promise you, than the two dinners you will end up buying/making alternatively.
5. Don’t lie.
When it’s bad, say yep, that doesn’t taste good and see the above steps. If it tastes good and they are just being difficult, well then, I got nothing. Hand them the iParent device of your choice and enjoy your meal.