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Restaurant Meals Mean More Soda and Calories for Kids

November 8, 2012

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It’s no secret that eating at a fast food joint will likely mean your plate has more sugar, salt, unhealthy fat, and calories on it. But new research indicates that any dining outside the home – even at full service restaurants with supposedly healthier options – is impacting our health, and is especially hard on our children.

The results of the new study show that kids and teens are getting greater amounts of saturated fat, calories, and sodium, and a lot more sugar through increased intake of soda and sugar sweetened beverages.  Fast food meals increased calorie intake by about 126 calories among 2- to 11-year-olds and by 309 calories among 12- to 19-year-olds. Full service restaurants weren’t much better, adding 160 calories to meals of younger children and 267 calories to older children’s meals.

An occasional restaurant meal isn’t an issue, but many of us are eating out far more frequently – on average 4-5 times per week. And that can translate into thousands of extra calories per year. What can you do?

Plan ahead

Aim to increase the number of home-cooked meals you have during the week. Weekday dinners do not have to be elaborate affairs, and by stocking your pantry with the essentials and planning ahead, you can put together a healthy, satisfying meal in minutes.

Try out new flavors

Bored with your usual dinner routine at home? Mix it up by testing out new recipes. Integrative Nutrition has a collection of recipes that have few ingredients and are simple to make. Start experimenting in your kitchen, and you may even find that you discover a few new favorite meals.

Follow the 90-10 rule

If you stick to healthy foods that nourish your body 90 percent of the time, the 10 percent of the time when you’re indulging will not be an issue. Integrative Nutrition call this the 90-10 diet. What’s great about this plan is that you don’t have to worry about giving into cravings because you have the option to do so for part of the time. 

How often do you eat out at restaurants?