A friend was telling me recently how she doesn't like her 1-year old to eat the food in restaurants because the children's menus are always so unhealthy. I got to thinking about places I had been and the meals on their kids menus and I had to agree that they definitely tend to be quite unhealthy choices. Things like burger and chips, chicken nuggets and cheesy pasta seem common. There's a distinct lack of nutritional fruit and vegetables in those dishes.
After parents are advised during the weaning stage to introuduce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and to steer clear of salt and sugar in the food for their children, it's strange to see such a different approach in restaurant food for little people. It appears they are aiming to please the fussy eater who doesn't like their veggies, rather than appealing to the health-concious parent who wants their child to enjoy a varied, nutritious diet.
I recently met with the head chef and manager of a nice restaurant in our area. They are trying to attract a more local crowd and to strengthen links with the community. They want families to come to their restaurant and so they want to make it as family-friendly in as many ways as possible. One way they are doing that is to not provide a children's menu. They think it's a more flexible approach to provide food for children as per their parent's request. If the parents want their child to have a small portion of something on the adult menu, they'll do that. If they want something in particular for their child, be it a vegetable dish or chicken nuggets, they'll happily accommodate. I think that's a good way to please most people and certainly a lot less restricting than a kids menu can be.
We hear a lot about childhood obesity in the news these days and according to a study by the British Heart Foundation in 2004, 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. It would be great if restaurants could provide healthier options for children to make eating well easier for families to do when they are eating out, as well as at home. There are lots of easy nutritious meals that are appealing to younger customers. Even those who don't enjoy an extensive repertoire of vegetables will probably eat them if they are disguised in something like a lasagne for example.
What do you think? Do you find the choice limiting when you eat out with your children? Do you eat out rarely enough that the odd unhealthy meal here or there is not a big deal or would you prefer to see some healthier choices on the kids menu?