Tips for making healthier choices for your children when eating - KCTV5

Tips for making healthier choices for your children when eating out

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Some meals for children can have as many calories in them as that child should eat in an entire day. (AP) Some meals for children can have as many calories in them as that child should eat in an entire day. (AP)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Finding healthy choices on the menu when you take your kids out to eat can be a real challenge, but there are some tips you can use to help you feed your child something healthier. 

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine studied 4,000 menu items at 45 chain restaurants and found that, in spite of the push to create healthier options, restaurants have not made much progress improving the nutritional quality of children's menus. 

Consumer Reports showed KCTV5 some things you can do when eating out with your kids to make mealtime a little healthier.

Katy Lough takes her young children out to eat for fun, but also wants them to eat healthy foods.

"I usually like my kids to eat some sort of protein, some sort of fruit, we can sneak a vegetable in there," Lough said.

But scoping out the best options can be very tough, especially when your child says, "Can I get the mac and cheese with a side of mozzarella sticks?"

"According to the Department of Agriculture, the average kid's meal with an entree, side, beverage and dessert has about 1,000 calories,” said Julia Calderone with Consumer Reports. “That's actually close to the amount that an 8-year-old should have in an entire day."

Consumer Reports food experts have some tips for dining out healthier.

First of all, share something from the regular menu with your child. Portions are generally oversized anyway, so you'll both eat better as a result. Plus, the regular menu has more options. 

Also, a healthy appetizer or salad from the adult menu may make a great full meal for your child.

Next, substitute. "It's really not enough to just make a healthy entree choice,” said Calderone. “The sides, drinks and desserts can actually pack a lot of calories, fats and sodium. Ask your server to substitute fruit for fries, or milk instead of juice."

Skip the sauce, too. Nutritionists warn that anything with cheese or a creamy sauce is probably loaded with fat.

Finally, many restaurants' kid-sized desserts have as many calories as an entree and double the saturated fat. So, consider ordering just one regular dessert for everyone to share.

If you're eating at a chain, look for a little apple logo next to certain items on the kids’ menu. Those are from the Kids LiveWell Program that was started by the National Restaurant Association.

The logo means that meal or side dish meets healthy nutritional guidelines.

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