Eating Out With Your Baby: Dos & Don’ts for a Less-Stress, Less-Mess Experience Day 1: Eating Out with Your Baby

Eating Out With Your Baby: Dos & Don’ts for a Less-Stress, Less-Mess Experience

Just like traveling with babies, eating out or going to restaurants with them can be a source of stress. You may be concerned about how your baby will behave in a restaurant, what kind of food to order for them, or how to manage them while enjoying yourself.

Eating out is an opportunity for parents to enjoy themselves and take a break from home. Moms need frequent small breaks from their responsibilities. When moms dress up, step out of the house, and enjoy an evening out at their favorite restaurant or catch up with friends over coffee, it can boost their emotional well-being.

Moms, we recommend you do this from time to time. Ask loved ones for the support you need, but do it.

Dads, we encourage you to support and step up as needed, so your partner can get short breaks that refresh her.

PART 1: EATING OUT AT A RESTAURANT

Can Your Baby Eat Outside Food?

When a baby is young, parents may wonder what’s the appropriate age to allow them to eat food in restaurants or cafes.

While stepping out for a meal is meant to be an experience for you to enjoy and indulge in, your baby may also get excited and want to be part of your dining experience. But can your baby eat this food? If your baby has tried all kinds of food at home (including allergenic foods) and is able to handle them well, they are ready to eat out. However, this readiness can vary for different babies.

This is also a personal preference that you, as a parent, can decide for your baby. Go with what makes you comfortable. You should feel confident with the choice you make.

Later in his article, we discuss how to order food (in a restaurant) that’s appropriate for your baby, so stay tuned.

Tips for Eating Out With Your Baby

CREATE A SOLID PLAN

1) Pick a baby-friendly place: Check if the restaurant can give you a baby-friendly or high chair. If any staff member goes out of their way to help or  clean up, make sure to tip them generously. You can also go to a park before the meal, so your baby can get out all their wiggles there, so they may be calmer at the restaurant

 

2) Pre-book a table if possible: With a baby, it’s challenging to wait to be seated in a crowded restaurant or on a busy night.

3) Avoid rush hours: Try to avoid visiting restaurants and cafes in their peak hours where it’s crowded and noisy. Both crowds and noise can be overly stimulating for babies.

4) Go with your baby’s schedule: If you align your eating out plans as per your baby’s meal and nap schedules, they will not be hungry, tired, or sleepy at the restaurant. If they’re well-rested and well-fed, there’s less chance of them being cranky later.

CARRY FROM HOME

  • Carry baby essentials like bibs, towels or wipes, extra clothes, and plastic bags for disposal. Carry their stroller so they can sleep in it if they are tired, and you can continue your meal or conversation.
  • Carry their food. If your baby has just started solids, pack the food they are comfortable eating at home. Avoid introducing new foods. Or feed them before you leave home. The easier option is to give them breast or formula feed. Preferably carry boiled and cooled drinking water from home for your baby.
  • Carry blocks or books to keep them busy, so they are less bored or cranky. Babies will also happily play with any object around them. Make sure it’s clean and safe.


 AT THE RESTAURANT

Use sanitizing wipes or a clean cloth to clean the restaurant’s high chair or table surface that your baby may touch. As soon as you’re seated, keep away breakable or sharp items like forks or glasses from your baby. Your baby can eat from cutlery you carry from home.

TIP: Hold your baby when you reach the restaurant; avoid putting them immediately in the high chair as they may resist it. Once they feel comfortable in your arms or lap, in the new environment, they will more likely sit in the high chair easily.

 

If you feel your baby is too restless or fussy and nothing seems to soothe them, it’s okay to leave and go home. But try this experience repeatedly with your baby, and they will get used to it gradually.

ORDERING FOOD FOR YOUR BABY

Since it’s a new environment and if you have fed your baby before leaving home, they will be less hungry. You can order something with less or no salt/sugar/spice at the restaurant (like khichdi or mashed potato) for your baby. You can also pick a dish that can be shared between you and your baby – rice and dal, dosa or idli, etc. When you share food with them, they feel included. 

TIP: Eliminate any risk of choking hazards (avoid slippery, hard, or round foods) and ensure they’re sitting upright when being fed.

Don’t Worry About…

It’s okay if the (small amount of) food they eat is not that nutritive. They may also eat something from your plate (which has salt/sugar), and that’s okay as this is once in a while. Just ensure the food they eat is cooked, and not raw. Babies are messy, especially around food, so if you carry bibs, mats, towels, etc. from home, you will be less worried.

WE SUGGEST: For babies, this is a new social experience and they will not behave how we expect them to. It’s perfectly okay. Every “outside experience with your baby” will be different. 

Baby-Appropriate Dishes at Restaurants

Here are some ideas for food that you can order at a restaurant:

Breakfast/Dinner:

Idli, chutney, sambhar

Pongal, sambhar

Dosa, sambhar, chutney

Idiyappam, coconut milk

Chapati, egg kurma with vegetables

Stuffed paratha with curd

Apple, plums

Moong dal chilla with green chutney

Thepla with curd

Lunch:

Plain rice, sambar, vegetable stir-fry

Jeera rice, dal makhani, sliced cucumber

Chicken pulao, onion raita

Curd rice/tomato rice/lemon rice/coconut rice, vegetable gravy or sabzi

Rice, fish curry, spinach gravy or sabzi

Bisi bele bhath, vegetable stir-fry

Rice, rasam, egg omelet, vegetable stir-fry

Pasta with vegetables and cheese

Rice, tawa chicken, sauteed vegetables

Roti/chapati, dal, dry vegetable sabzi, curd

Best to avoid:

Anything fried, extra salt, added sugary foods, honey

Processed meats

Choking hazards like whole grapes, whole nuts, etc.

Foods your baby hasn’t tried yet at home

 

PART 2: EATING OUT AT SOMEONE’S HOME

When you’re at someone’s home, it’s an environment you may not be able to control – just like at a restaurant. But, don’t worry, let’s look at some tips on how you can make it as comfortable as possible for your baby.

1) Carry your own food: It’s best to carry your baby’s food from home as you don’t know the kind of food or the time at which food will be served in a social event. Take fruits or a one-pot meal like a khichdi or porridge, or some finger foods that your baby is comfortable with.

2) Consider a high chair: If your host/hostess has a baby chair, you can use that. But carry your own chair if it’s easier to feed your baby in that

3) Carry baby essentials: Bibs, mats, wipes, toys, books – whatever you think your baby will need and may soothe them if they get irritable. You can also feed them breast milk or formula and they may go to sleep straight after.

Eating out (whether at restaurants or someone’s home) is a great opportunity for babies to have new experiences and learn ways of social interaction. Be flexible and go with your baby’s cues. Over time, your baby will get used to these experiences and you will too! 

Tomorrow, we will explore important ways you can help nurture your baby’s gut so they can have a healthy digestive system.