Now that summer is here, it is much easier and more enjoyable to garner that 2½- 4 cups of fruits and vegetables to know that we are taking good care of our bodies. Good for us.
But have you noticed what is available on children's menus at a restaurant or drive-through? When did chicken fingers, grilled-cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and fries become the standard on most children's menus? In fact, sometimes milk is not even available on the kids' meal. How can any meal that is so loaded with calories and so low in nutrient density nourish any child?
Hot dogs, fries and soda are common choices that provide significant fat, lots of calories, excess sodium and minimal vitamins and minerals. Some of the kids' meal options can top 1,000 calories for one meal - an elementary child's needs for a full day.
At this time of year we often eat out more than usual - so many places to be and little time to get there. Restaurants and drive-throughs become a standard and more than several times a week. What can be done?
Nonprofit companies such as Healthy Kids Choice, or HKC, is helping restaurants provide better access to healthier choices. The purpose is to tackle the obesity in our children and more importantly to provide the necessary daily nutrients. As a restaurant plans its menu, HKC helps identify what already is available, be it appetizer or in preparation state, and then incorporate it into the kids menu.
If you're a parent, think outside of the box. Look at the appetizer list to make a meal out of it, such as meat on a skewer with a few "trees" (broccoli) added; perhaps order a half-serving of an item or create a child's own special "sampler" plate with selections from all the plates at the table. Many times there are healthier options on the standard menu and oversized portions are standard. Perhaps just asking for an extra plate is all that is necessary to create the sampler, presuming you are setting a good example.
Restaurants can begin by taking the option to remove fries and add a vegetable or fruit instead, offer a quality beverage such as 100 percent juice or milk rather than soda or offer cereals that don't contain the equivalent of more than six teaspoons of added sugar.
If there is a label on the food item or if the chain restaurant provides a nutrient analysis, remember there is an easy conversion to make it real. Identify the amount of sugar in an item by locating the grams of sugar in the product and divide by four to approximate number of teaspoons of sugar added. The grams of fat divided by nine identifies the teaspoons of fat present in that product.
The same guidelines apply regardless of age, vacation, locale or activity. Our children need the benefit on a daily basis.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.