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8 Healthy Habits of Families Who Dine Out

Jill Castle

Family Cooking

Did you know the average family eats out 5 times per week? That’s a lot of eating out! In order to eat out and maintain a healthy diet, the right frame of mind is important to have.  Teach your kids the healthy habits and perspective below to help them develop good eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Know the Food Groups.  Learning the foods that your children should be eating each day along with their appropriate portion sizes and balance will help you teach them to make healthier choices at any meal, anywhere, anytime.

Moderation is the Key.  It is okay for kids to have their favorite tasty treats every now and then.  Order small portions of the most indulgent foods and larger portions of healthier ones to provide balance to their meals.  Shoot for mostly healthy foods and 1-2 treats per day on average.

Break Bad Habits.  Ask your children if they are really hungry for their usual after-dinner chocolate or mid-afternoon soda, or if they’re just used to having those foods at that time every day.  If not, then encourage them to pass on the treat, or suggest replacing it with healthier fare.

Plan Ahead.  Many restaurants have menus available on-line, often with nutrition information.  Identify the better options at your favorite restaurants so that your children will have some flexibility and healthy limits.

Cue into Appetite.  Help your children start listening to their hunger and fullness cues and identify them as the signal to start or stop eating. This intuitive eating approach can help everyone avoid overeating and can also move your child toward self-regulated eating.

Use Positive Thinking.  Focusing on the healthy foods that your family enjoys is much more productive than dwelling on the ones that you think you can’t have.  A “glass half full” mentality will make a healthy lifestyle easier to maintain long-term.  Also try to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” as this can distort your child’s view of them.

Share.  Treats, such as decadent desserts, can be shared with the whole table or with another individual so that everyone can indulge without overindulging. Large entrees can be split between two children or one child and an adult.

Keep a Diary.  Food journaling is a great way to put your child’s eating habits into perspective, for you and them.  It can also offer some accountability.  Write down their food intake, physical activity, and thoughts and moods throughout the day for insight into the impact eating has on wellbeing.

Enjoying food in a healthy way is all about finding a balance that works for your family. While ‘balance’ may sound mundane or boring, it is the secret to success. It involves balancing immediate pleasure with long-term health. Balancing healthy foods with the occasional treat. Balancing calories eaten with calories burned. Balancing food groups at each meal. Balancing restaurant dining with home cooking. How do you strike the healthy balance when eating out with your family?

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Jill Castle

Jill Castle is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with expertise in pediatric nutrition. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just the Right Byte, a childhood nutrition blog. Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD and Facebook.