Going out to eat with the kids isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to watch what they are putting in their bodies. Here is a quick list to the Top 10 healthiest restaurants for kids (and hopefully for you, too!) All of these also have gluten-free options so make sure to ask your server!
Dining out is sometimes for fun, sometimes out of necessity. Unfortunately for me, it’s normally, out of the fact that I didn’t listen to any of my own advice to plan in advance or cook something in the slow cooker. Mostly it’s just out of my total disdain for dishes.
However, when you have kids, it takes on a whole new platter of concerns including behavior, budget and belly (well what they are putting in it them that is.)
Zoe’s Kitchen, locations in 11 states
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Zoe’s Kitchen. And not because it’s healthy, but because it’s fresh…and so good. While there is a kids’ menu available that includes grilled chicken fingers, cheese quesadilla and fruit, it’s the fact that my kids prefer to just eat off the menu. And instead of my go-to rotisserie chicken, I can make one call for a family meal complete with chicken, steak and veggie kabobs, 2 sides (and believe me I could subsist on the white beans and pasta salad alone), salad, and hummus with pita. With gluten, vegan and several under 500-calorie options, Zoe’s gives you much more than the same ole, same ole.
El Fenix, 22 locations
A Dallas institution, El Fenix is a family concept that has been sharing their family favorite recipes since 1911 and has been going strong ever since.
Late last year, El Fenix stepped up to the table to offer not just your favorite Tex-Mex options, but healthy ones for your kids! Developed by a local high school culinary student in partnership with Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas, El Fenix’s Kids Fit Menu allows kids to build their own meals by choosing 2 veggies and fruits from an array of delicious, low-fat/calorie entrées and sides, along with a glass of apple juice. The kids won’t feel like they’re missing out with these picks especially the sweet nachoes with apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, raisins and a little whip cream.
And best of all (for your budget), you can try the new El Fenix Kids Fit Menu (kids 12 and under) now until Feb. 7 for just $1.99 instead of the normal $4.99 when you use this coupon.
Vitality Bowls, 4 states with 20+ locations
While this new hot spot only has one Texas location, the West Coast has long embraced this uber-healthy joint that doesn’t just feed your hunger, but gives you body the things it needs to work at its best. Vitality Bowls® superfood café is looking to revolutionize the new idea of its Açaí Bowls®. Made from a thick blend of the Amazon’s antioxidant-rich açaí berry, the bowls are choc full of fruits, veggies, granola, and nuts for every palate. But the menu also includes smoothies, juices, wraps/paninis and salads served all day. While the idea sounds good to pile a lot of healthy things in one bowl, I wondered if the kids would dig in.
Much to my doubts, my daughter who is often the hardest to convince, said it was tasty and pretty, too. Just remember the bowl is cold, so this ain’t an oatmeal alternative. This is different than what you’ve had before, but change is good. And this change is real good for both of you. Plus they serve a chocolate covered banana too, so there’s always room for chocolate – as long as there’s fruit, too 🙂
Looking for a healthy option for unique food that can be on your 2016 Resolution List, the kids are going to like and to-go? Vitality Bowls, a local cafe that prides itself on serving the most creative superfoods including bowls, paninis, salads and smoothies. Using real good, feel good foods like açaí and goji berries, bee pollen, flax seed, and other fruits, your bowl isn’t just food but fuel to make you healthier inside and out. A look into this new offering in Irving/Las Colinas is #coming soon to the blog. #ontheblogsoon #healthy #mamachallenge #VitalityBowls #NewYou #healthyeats #VisitIrving #DallasFoodNerd #acai #goji #flax
Jamba Juice, 26 states with 800 locations
It’s easy to want to roll into happy hour after school to get the kids a little something before dinner along with a 44 oz. slushie. You might be getting it half off, but that starts to mount up – and I’m not just talking about your pocket book. Consider what could happen if you took all the veggies and fruits we all could use more of and put it in a cup with a straw…happy and healthier kids. Sure, you can make some poor decisions at a smoothie bar, but the kind folks at Jamba Juice can lead you into the right direction for exactly what you want and need. Asking to lighten it up (halving the calorie count) and ordering the almond-milk smoothies can give your kids the sweet kick they want without all the sugar, grease or sodium found in many fast-casual eateries. And Tuesdays after 3 kids can get a free smoothie when you order one. SCORE!
Chick-Fil-A, 1850 locations
Oh, yes, one of our favorites! Between the cows, Mom Valet and diet lemonade, we’ll be lifetime friends with this family-focused establishment. While Chick-Fil-A is home to the beloved fried chicken sandwich (among the waffle fries, chicken minis, etc.), they are making a huge effort to give parents options for their kids when it comes to healthier eating. Launched last year, the grilled chicken nuggets kids’ meal is full of protein, low in fat and calories. And if mom and dad are looking to cut their calories, too, a grilled chicken sandwich or grilled nuggets with the new kale salad can rock your world and not your waistline.
Pei Wei, 200 locations
Pei-Wei makes us happy in so many ways. From knowing who we are and what our order is when they pick up the phone to giving us a freebie with My Wei Rewards, when we need a little Asian flavor in our life, it’s our way to go Pei Wei (cute, right?) While you can go big with a big bowl of noodles, go with the Lighten Up menu, choose smaller plates to keep your portions in check or ask them to “Stock Velvet” your meal. Basically, the protein is steamed in broth instead of stir-fried in oil. It works best for chicken, shrimp and tofu, but no beef unless you like rubber. And of course, with the kids’ meal, you can add or take out what you need to make a meal your kid will actually eat and ask for again.
Subway, 25,000+ locations in the U.S.
For some reason, when restaurants go healthy, they also decide to take out one of the biggest things that kids love…the toys. While secretly I’ll be throwing it away when they aren’t looking, teaching the value of healthy eating is higher on my list. And it works. Thankfully, Subway has been able to combine the two by offering fun lunchbox options with their kids’ meal. Try selling a sandwich, glass of milk and yogurt for dinner at home and you’ll mostly be met with moans and groans. Tell your kids that you’re heading to get your Star Wars dinner with a mini-light saber (a recent offering), your kids will call you Yoda.
Applebee’s, 2000 locations
Applebee’s has long-been heralded as many things, but the destination for healthy kids’ meals wasn’t one of them. Until now. Working with the KidsWell program, the neighborhood grill offers a two-tiered menu with entrée options for older kids with bigger appetites and younger kids with smaller appetites. Options include chicken, steak and pasta as well as 11 total side choices like all-natural GoGo squeeZ Applesauce (double whoo-hoo from us) and steamed broccoli, apple slices, all-natural yogurt, all-natural yogurt and strawberries, white rice, salads and carrots or celery with ranch dressing (a little fat isn’t always bad.)
Red Lobster, 700+ locations
Fond memories of garlic cheddar biscuits and strong drinks make up a lot of my college memories, but like me, Red Lobster also now has a little more responsible side with healthier options for the whole family. Red Lobster gives kids just as many fresh seafood options as the “big kids” with their Lighthouse Menu. Healthy options include Garlic-Grilled Shrimp with just 60 calories and 1 gram of fat, Broil/ed Fish and the Popcorn Shrimp for 140 calories each. And there’s always snow crab legs! All of the kids’ meals come with 1% milk and the choice of orange wedges or broccoli. Red Lobster even provides the small ones with some fun, colorful drink options like a sunset strawberry smoothie or a cherry wave slushy. And no one will ever know that mama’s drink has a little bit of extra love in it.