Eating away

Eating Away from Home

26 September 2022
Posted by: Chelsea

Responsible parents will typically work hard to try and ensure that their children get healthy food and help in developing good eating awareness at home.

Eating away from home, at friends’ houses, restaurants and day care centres, can put those intentions to the test.

Here are some things to consider and ideas about how to help your child in what might be challenging situations from an eating perspective.

Eating away from home – schools and day care centres

Up until around 40-50 years ago, many schools operated on the basis of “pile it high and make it filling” when it came to feeding children in their care.

Things have fortunately changed since then and now governments and education authorities, plus individual schools, have hugely improved. The days of vending machines in schools handing out sugary fizzy drinks and sweets have, hopefully, largely gone.

However, not all schools and day care centres are quite as discerning. So, as part of your evaluation of such establishments, make sure you’ve checked their menus for the inclusion of things like fruit and vegetables plus an overall balanced diet.

Restaurants

There are really three challenges here:

  • portion sizes (even on children’s menu options);
  • out-of-sight cooking methods in the kitchens;
  • often an unhealthy emphasis on sweets, desserts and puddings etc.

Where portions are concerned, encourage your child to eat until they feel gently full and not to try and clean the plate in front of them. You could also encourage them to share their meal with you or another sibling while eating away.

For what goes on in the kitchen, you may have to use some common sense to weed out foodstuffs that might contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt. Anything that comes in a sauce is likely to have high levels of such. The same goes for many heavily processed foods like sausages, pies, chicken nuggets and dressed burgers/kebabs etc.

While eating away look for roast or grilled plain meat or fish accompanied by plain potatoes, rice and vegetables or salad.

Sweets are a nightmare. We all know they’re delicious! Even so, try to encourage your child to eat small amounts and to share one with you. Another good idea is to get your child used to the idea of a savoury starter in the meal, filling up on that plus the main course, then skipping the sweet altogether (sometimes!).

Friends’ houses

This can be a very difficult domain for parents.

When they’re in someone else’s home, your child may be under all sorts of pressures to eat what their friend is eating and has been offered by the friend’s parents. Even if you’ve got them choosing healthy options, asking them to say “no thanks” or “I can’t eat that, do you have any vegetables?”, is expecting a lot. They may suffer ridicule from their friends and possibly even some parents.

There is very little you can do about this but you can try:

  • talking to other parents about foodstuffs you don’t want your child to eat while with them;
  • encouraging your child to be strong enough to say “no thank you” in a polite and friendly manner.

Be cautious with restaurant, school and other parents’ food claims

Today there’s a plethora of eateries and products proudly proclaiming their healthy food credentials for eating away.

Help to educate your child about those and to recognize that words such as ‘Bio’, ‘Healthy Eating’, ‘Natural’ or ‘Green’ do not necessarily indicate that the product being offered is healthy. For example, it’s perfectly possible to take Bio vegetables and then serve them in a sticky and sugary sauce with high salt levels.

Be realistic

There is though a great danger with children and your best intentions relating to food. That is that they start seeing unhealthy food as glamorous and attractive – a sort of forbidden fruit they need to outsmart you on.

The answer to this one is typically simple – educate them about these foods and let them have them occasionally. The odd chocolate treat, some chips or a sticky pudding won’t do them any harm in moderation. If you teach them to control their consumption of such things, they’ll be well positioned for their later teenage and adult lives.

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