How to limit JUNK food at restaurants

Conscious and healthier casual eating can be a challenge for the family.  We are usually rushing from one place to another, trying to get food in between.  It is tempting to just go thru a fast-food drive-thru or quickly dine-in and order based on the good looking food menu presented to us.

Unfortunately, a lot of the menu items in restaurants are not just loaded with calories, but are high in saturated fat and sodium.  And to take it even further, they contain artificial ingredients, highly processed food, preservatives and tons of sugar. I wonder how many of us would eat this food if the ingredients and their effects on your family’s overall health were exposed right in front of us.  If you are eating this most of the time, and sharing this dinning experience with your family, it is very likely you are not only risking your healthy but your children’s as well.  Many people are ignorant of the effects such as bad cholesterol, blood pressure,  risk of heart disease and stroke, obesity and many others.

Have you ever noticed the kid’s menu at restaurants is usually a choice between fried chicken fingers, pizza, mac-n-cheese, fries and cheeseburger, and canned fruit?!   How about the drink? usually juices from artificial ingredients and lots of sugar, oh, and don’t forget dessert! Wow! Think about this meal’s calories, fat, artificial ingredients, high sodium and sugar content!  and this is just one of the meals of the day.  And we wonder about children’s increase in obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other diseases.  How about mental and physical fatigue? all connected!

Now, am I saying never eat out at restaurants or fast-food places? No.  Our family likes to dine out as well, I get a break from cooking ;).  My kids love pizza, mac-n-cheese, but we try to at least choose wiser choices and/or a combination of bad/good food to balance it out.  If we pizza for lunch, we need to eat veggies and non-processed food for the rest of the day.  If my kids want mac-n-cheese, we make sure at least is made with real cheese and not that fake mac-n-cheese from a box.  You have to be a bit more picky about what you choose, but you will become wiser and healthier in the long run.

The list below focus on better food choices to the best of my knowledge while eating out. Use this a reference guide to make inform decisions for you and your family. Although my focus is on finding organic, natural, non-artificial, non-processed, non-gmo, no-hormones added options, most restaurants do not offer these or are too expensive.  There are restaurants though that are on the path of offering  healthier choices for kids as there is a demand increase for healthier and nutritious foods, awesome!! Read more about clean eating here

Criteria for my picks (at least 4), 

  • Low sodium – less than 500 mg per meal
  • Low calorie –  500 to 600 per meal (depending on kid’s age) Read more about calorie intake suggestion
  • Low Sugar – less than 35% of calories
  • Low fat – less than 35% of calories
  • Good protein source
  • Good fiber source
  • Focus is also on organic, no artificial flavors, natural, no antibiotics  and non-GMO


  • Choose a healthier meal for your kids from the adult’s menu selection.  Ask for an additional plate to split a healthier adult meal for your kids
  • Choose water over juices, milk and soda
  • Choose fresh  and natural squeezed juices no sugar added
  • Choose grilled or boiled vs fried
  • Choose green vegetables and fresh fruit
  • Choose low fat or fat free
  • Avoid super-sizing, this will cut down on fat, salt and sugar
  • Avoid ordering appetizers, bread and butter
  • Avoid deli cheese or limit consumption
  • Avoid deli cured meats
  • Avoid all sodas, even diet sodas!
  • Limit all desserts, they are usually loaded with lots of sugar and artificial flavors
  • Ask for dressings, sauces to be served on the side
  • Ask for meals to be “light on the sauce” or for it to be prepare with very little butter or olive oil
  • Ask for side substitutions, instead of fries, choose a vegetable
  • Look for the “American Heart Association” logo on the menu
  • Look for whole grain logo
  • There are restaurants that have menus that are gluten-free and/or dairy-free, ask waiter for these alternatives

Is there a restaurant you would like to see here? Do you have any suggestions?


Note worthy:

Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend daily sodium intake of 2,300mg for children; American Heart Association estimate that lowering sodium daily intake to 1,500mg could result in 25.6% decrease in blood pressure and care savings of about $26 million!

The information contain within this page and its links was obtain from different resources such as the restaurants websites, nutritional information from the restaurant’s nutrition guide, their customer service and/or from readers’ personal experience and reviews. does not guarantee nor is responsible for the accuracy of the information within these pages/posts.  Contact the restaurant directly to confirm the ingredients and menu offerings or for any allergies and nutrient concern.

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