Consumer Reports looks at kids menus when dining out

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Taking your kids out to eat can present real challenges when it comes to finding healthy choices.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine studied 45 chain restaurants to see how they're doing, and they found that in spite of making some changes, restaurants have made little progress in improving the nutritional quality of kid's menus.

Katy Lough takes her young children out to eat for fun, and she wants them to eat healthy foods. But scoping out the best options can be a challenge for parents and kids.

"According to the Department of Agriculture, the average kid's meal with an entree, side, beverage and dessert has about 1,000 calories," Consumer Reports' Julia Calderone said.

And that's close to the amount that an 8-year old should have over the course of an entire day. So Consumer Reports health experts put together some tips to help your family eat well when eating out.

First, share something from the regular menu with your child. Portions are generally over-sized anyway. Or choose a healthy appetizer or salad as a full meal for your child.

Next, try substituting healthier items.

"The sides, drinks and desserts can actually pack a lot of calories," Calderone said. "Ask your server to substitute fruit for fries, or milk instead of juice."

And skip the sauce. Consumer Reports' nutritionists warn that anything with cheese or a creamy sauce is probably loaded with fat.

If you are dining at a chain, look for a little apple logo next to certain items on the kid's menu. Those are from the Kids Live Well program, started by National Restaurant Association.

Participating restaurants offer at least one meal and one side dish that meet healthful nutritional guidelines. Finally, many restaurants' kid-sized desserts have as many calories as an entree and double the saturated fat. So consider ordering just one for everyone to share.
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