Managing meals on the go

  • Planning ahead can make the restaurant experience enjoyable for everyone.
  • Large portion sizes, high-sugar and high-sodium foods are common problems when ordering for young children.
  • Order easy to pick up and hold foods so your child can practice feeding himself.

Eating out with small children can be challenging for any parent. Planning ahead can help make dining out an enjoyable experience for everyone. If you are able, bring in his favorite finger foods to hold off hunger until the food arrives. Having familiar foods on hand can help him be patient while enjoying the social interaction at the table.

Good to know

Bringing portable foods from home can make dining out a better experience for your child.

Menu tips for your child

Portion sizes:

  • Restaurant portions, even those on a kids’ menu, may be too large for your 2-years-old or Preschooler. Share some of your order — if it’s developmentally appropriate for him. 
  • If his order is too large, ask for a to-go container. Serve him a reasonable portion and put the remainder away.
  • Listen to his fullness cues, letting him decide when he’s had enough.

Breakfast choices:

  • Try to avoid the high-sugar items, like donuts and pastries. Instead, opt for scrambled eggs, unsweetened cereal, fruit or low-fat yogurt. Even fast food restaurants often have a selection of these items. 
  • Choose plain, low-fat milk or 100% juice for his beverage. A Preschooler-sized serving of 100% fruit juice is only 4 fl. oz., so consider traveling with individual containers. 

Lunch and dinner choices:

  • Sandwiches are a good option, because you can usually customize the ingredients. Cut them in small pieces so he can take control and feed himself.
  • Baked or grilled chicken and fish cut into small bites with cooked vegetables, also cut into small bites, served with brown rice or mashed potatoes can be a good choice.
  • Pasta cut into small pieces with tomato sauce and a chopped meatball can be a Preschooler-friendly, albeit potentially messy, food.

Sodium watch: 

  • Many restaurant foods with sauces, seasonings and coatings can have more sodium than your child should be eating in an entire day. Order foods cooked as plainly as possible. 

If the restaurant lets you, bring along your child’s favorite foods that travel well.

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