While you’re in total control of what your kids eat at home, going out for lunch or dinner can get a little crazy sometimes. I’m not talking about the noise or mess your kids make – that’s normal! I’m referring to food choices. If your kids are still toddlers and you have some control over their decisions, whenever you can, avoid ordering from the kids menu. Most of the time, the kids menu is made up of pre-made dishes that rely on deep frying. Those fried foods are high in calories, fat, specifically saturated fat, sodium, and very low in nutrition. Not something you would eat, and certainly not something you’d want your kids to eat.

Restaurants reuse oils for frying their foods. Even if their intentions are good and they use unsaturated vegetable oil, after repeated heating the oil ends up with some trans fat. Trans fats are the worst kind of fat to put in your body – in fact it can’t be metabolized in the human body. Research has shown that when unsaturated vegetable oils are heated at frying temperature for over half an hour, highly toxic compounds form in the oil. Restaurants will keep using the same oil for deep frying and filtering it until they are the color of molasses – not a good thing at all.

Eating healthy and avoiding deep fried foods that are high in saturated fats or trans fat isn’t just for kids who are overweight. Fried foods have been associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Even though there is always a healthier version of fried foods, you don’t have to cut it entirely out of your child’s diet. Allow fried foods on occasion, never daily and preferably at home. And of course, throw away the any oil once it’s been used.

Though fat and cholesterol play an important role in kids’ brain development, there are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Children ages one to three should eat a diet of about 30 – 35% of calories from fat. The percentage decreases to about 25% – 35% for 4 to 18 years of age. Put in mind that leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. If you only eat out every once in a while,  let them enjoy their dining experience, since this would be an exception to the rule. But, if eating out or ordering food at home is a habit, then try to gradually change the orders for more healthier options.