When it comes to eating out and about with a toddler, your main thought is probably about keeping them entertained so they don’t run a riot for your entire meal! As well as making sure they actually eat the foods on offer, without turning their noses up!
Raffy loves his food, but even taking him out to a restaurant is HARD because he want to run around and cause chaos – even in the middle of his food. So I’ve tried to collate some tips around helping little ones to still eat well, and have healthier options, but also tips to keep them somewhat entertained. Obviously there is no magic wand and ultimately they are going to be a little mad when out and about, but here we go…. Here are some great tips that I received from parents as well as tips from myself and my friends and family too.
I hope you find these useful.
Top Tips to Eating out and About with a Toddler:
- Take food and snacks whenever possible – if they are running around all day, they are likely to need the extra energy. Fruit and veggies work a treat as a quick, snacky option that won’t fill them up too much before food comes. My oatcake recipe is one that I usually have with me too, I put some peanut butter on top, which keeps Raffy quiet for a while as he likes to lick this off first!
- Still ask about levels of salt in foods on offer. It’s good to check if the chefs/staff can just avoid adding salt to the foods for your toddlers – more often than not this is easy for them to do (not always if it’s been added already).
- Make a point if you don’t think the “Kid’s menu” isn’t appropriate. In my opinion lots of people aren’t aware that JUST offering chicken nuggets and chips on the menu isn’t appropriate. Now, I’m not saying that kids can’t have these, but I just find it frustrating that people think this is kids food, and in my opinion this only goes to encourage the idea that this is suitable, regular food for kids.
- Think balance at lunches – It’s good to think about whether you’re getting in some carbs, protein and veggies at mealtimes as that way you can know that they are getting a good dose of the macro and micro nutrients that are needed. For example a Jacket potato with beans, cheese and a little side salad can be an easy winner, and one that kids often enjoy!
- Choose foods yourself that you also want your little one to eat – Rolemodelling is key so if you’re making positive choices, they are more likely to want similar foods for themselves too.
- Take table entertainment for when your little one is waiting – books, favourite toys, colouring pads are all ideal. OR if you’re lucky enough to find a café/pub/restaurant with a children’s area, you’re also very lucky!
- Forgotten your little one’s usual cup? Don’t worry, use the time at restaurants to you’re your little one learn how to drink from a standard glass. I was always forgetting a cup of water for Raffy when heading out to lunch and he very quickly picked up how to manage a small amount of water from a tumbler. Just fill it with an inch of water and initially help them use it, but this is great practice for getting them to drink from an open cup if they don’t already.
- Ask for no added sugar options and or sauces/dressings on the side so you’re able to manage your little one’s intake of these yourself. Again, I’m not saying that they can’t have these, but if you’re eating out with them fairly regularly, it’s good to have a little control over how much is going in!
- Remember that eating out isn’t an everyday occasion and that it’s not problematic if your little one has too much salt/sugar every now and then, it all balances out.
- Try to choose options with plenty of veggies and also lots of flavours to help them to experience tastes and herbs and spices that you might not offer at home. However, it’s best not to go TOO adventurous if you’re buying a meal for them and not sharing as you don’t want it to all go to waste!
- On that note, some of you might feel more comfortable to choose familiar options when out and about, simply so that they are more likely to eat and not reject the meal you’ve just paid for!
- I mentioned on my last post about sharing meals with others at the table, whether this be side orders or mains. This can be a good way to get plenty of variety into your little one, to rolemodel and also to allow them to reject certain foods and eat others.
Mainly remember not to worry too much if they are having foods they wouldn’t normally have at home or if they are having too much in the way of salt or sugar on an occasion. We have to put “healthy eating” messages into context, even for our kids. Their diets aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s reality. If they have more salt on some days than they normally would that’s all OK – remember to try and look at the balance that they have over a week, rather than meal to meal and remember that it’s all about context. A little bit of salty soup, some ketchup with lots of sugar and a portion of chips is not going to undo all of the good food you offer at home!
Other fab tips for eating out and about with a toddler from parents!
- Invest in a small dustpan and brush to clean up a little after yourselves
- Go for a walk/soft play before hand to tire them out somewhat
- Ask them what they want in the restaurant to allow them to have some autonomy. You can offer a couple of choices and let them choose too.
- Take them to the kitchen to see the chefs – this is a great way of entertaining them if the restaurant allows it, of course!
- Pens and white boards work a treat at mealtimes out and about
- Make sure they have a high chair with a strap so you can keep your toddler strapped in!
- Take them along at their normal mealtimes so they are more likely to be hungry
- Don’t stress – most people are understanding when you have kids out and about and rry and make it an enjoyable occasion for you all!
I hope you enjoyed this little series about eating out with babies, older babies and toddlers. As always if you have any more tips to add, just message me and I’ll make sure to keep adding to and updating this list for parents.