A Day Out… What Can the Children Eat?

There’s nothing like a day out with the children. Excited, happy and totally up for enjoying themselves, the last thing you want is to be Kill Joy when it gets to lunchtime.

But if you walk into a café or restaurant and all you can see is chips, pizza, cakes and fizzy drinks, you may feel like running straight out again.

Before you do, take a deep breathe and see what else is on offer because often things aren’t as ‘bad’ as they seem at first.

Check out my top ten tips for navigating menus and choosing something that ticks both your boxes, and theirs.

  1. Accept that you may well have to give in to the chips and check out the portion size. If it looks big, then agree to one serving, but divide it between two or three of you. This helps to keep calories and fat in check.
  2. If pizza is also an inevitable option, then always go for the plainest version, which is usually tomato and cheese. Have a slice or two and ‘pad’ this out with some vegetables and a slice of French stick. This helps to cut down on fat but still provide energy.
  3. If your children like baked beans, ask if the place you’re in can do baked beans on toast. Most chefs are happy to whip up something ultra simple like this to keep a customer happy. When served with a glass of orange juice, the energy-boosting iron in the baked beans is made easy to absorb by the vitamin C in the juice.
  4. Remember that baked potatoes are a great option for children. Toppings like grated cheese or cottage cheese are good because they provide calcium for growing bones.
  5. Pasta is another easy-option that most children love. Go for simple tomato-based sauces rather than creamy Carbonara-style choices to keep the fat and saturated fat in check.
  6. Don’t dismiss sandwiches. They may seem a bit mundane, but white bread is surprisingly good for calcium while wholemeal gives us B vitamins and iron for energy along with fibre. Fillings like ham and cheese are often popular but do bump up salt intakes, so encourage something like an apple as a accompaniment rather than a packet of crisps, which add yet more salt.
  7. Don’t dismiss sandwiches. They may seem a bit mundane, but white bread is surprisingly good for calcium while wholemeal gives us B vitamins and iron for energy along with fibre. Fillings like ham and cheese are often popular but do bump up salt intakes, so encourage something like an apple as a accompaniment rather than a packet of crisps, which add yet more salt.
  8. As an alternative to fizzy, sugar-rich drinks, try mixing a fruit juice such as apple or orange with sparkling water. While a can of fizzy drink has around nine teaspoons worth of sugar, this option has just 10g of sugar per half-and-half juice-and-water in a 200ml glass.
  9. When it comes to puddings, often ice cream is one of the ‘better’ choices, with less sugar and fat than traditional puddings like Banoffi pie or Brownies in chocolate sauce.
  10. With cakes, again take a look at the size of the slice and consider buying a piece to share. Often one slice can easily be split between two or three, again helping to cut back on sugar while still allowing a treat.
  11. When out and about with the children, do look out for meal-deals and picnic style selections that many venues now have on offer.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar offering at London Zoo is a great example of how ‘day-out’ food can still be balanced, tasty and most importantly for the children, fun.

By selecting a cheese sandwich with protein for growth, a fromage frais for bone building calcium, a veg’ and fruit pot plus an apple juice to help meet two of their five a day and a very small chocolate bar as a treat, it keeps everyone happy; grown ups and kids alike.