Let’s eat out: Making public meals pleasant with young children

There can be positive and proven ways for reaching good food habits with children when dining in public.

When children get fussy during a meal at a restaurant, there can be several actions that adults use to address this. First, they should always talk in a calm, quiet and positive manner to the child. Adults can excuse themselves from the table and take a short walk with the child. A restaurant is not the place for loud discipline. This is also not the place to focus on the child’s eating; as food can always be packed up to take home.

When eating out in public with a child, Michigan State University Extension recommends the following tips from Nibbles for Health:

  • Split an order. Ask for an extra plate, you can always take rest home.
  • Try to pick a restaurant that is child friendly, as this will make you and your child more comfortable. Use a booster seat so your child can eat easier and be part of the group.
  • When going out to eat, try to make it around the same time regular meals occur. The kids will tend to be less fussy. If it is at a later time, use snacks to tide them over.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask about food preparations. Most restaurants are accommodating with requests. This is probably not the best time to try new food. Let children eat their regular food and share with them any of your food that may be new to them (if they are interested).
  • Always let the child decide what they would like to eat. Give them two or three choices. Ask for a child’s size portion. Too much food on a plate can be overwhelming and invites play time. Side dishes and appetizers are good choices and come in small portions.

Try offering a slice of bread or crackers if the child is very hungry, this can be while waiting for the meal. Always involve your children in the table talk. This makes them feel important and worthwhile.

Enjoy eating out, but keep the meal short. Children need enough time to eat, but sitting patiently for a long time when eating out is too much to expect.

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