By Sadé Meeks, MS,RD
Let’s be real, planning to go out to eat hits differently when you have little ones. What you have a taste for isn’t the only thing that needs to be considered when dining out with the kiddos. Planning is important for promoting a pleasurable dining experience for both you and your little one. I researched a few tips from the experts – PARENTS themselves and compiled my top five tips for eating out with your small child!
- Choose Wisely: Sushi may sound good but let’s be honest, your little one’s taste buds are still maturing. Unless you are sure sushi is a winner with your child, opt to choosing restaurants with familiar food options. Try to avoid introducing your child to new foods at a restaurant. However, food exposure is great for meals at home.
- Set Rules: Its totally fine to set ground rules and boundaries with you kid for eating out. For example, let them know that they are to remain at the table until everyone is done eating. Tell them that they’re expected to use their inside voices. I’m sure you have your specific rules, so be sure to emphasize them and remind your child of them before heading out.
- Stick with It: Even if your child makes a mess, has a few loud outbursts, or refuses the food, know that it’s okay. Each dining out experience is also a learning experience. With continued exposure to restaurants, you’ll recognize continual improvements and growth in your child’s behaviors and restaurant manners.
- Be Mindful of Allergens: If your child has allergies, inform the servers so they will know to inform kitchen staff and alert you of any ingredients that may not be listed on the menu. For instance, if your child has Celiac Disease, inform restaurant staff that you or your child can only eat food that is strictly gluten-free and avoid condiments and food that may have been cooked with hidden ingredients (i.e. soy sauce).For more tips on allergens, check out Freedom Foods Allergen Help page at https://freedomfoodsus.com/allergy-help/ .
- Pack your own distractions: We have all been there before, the kitchen is running behind and it takes you longer than usual to get your food. Anything can happen, and for that matter we must take the child’s attention span into consideration. Be sure to pack some small toys or coloring books to keep your child entertained. We want to help, feel free to download our Messy Monkey coloring pages at the end of this article.