Wednesday, 21 July 2010

What's on the (Kids) menu?

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?


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  1. I find it strange that there are sometimes more healthy options for children in fast food type restaurants than what I consider to be 'proper' restaurants.

    I think however that a lot more independent restaurants are catching on - there's a cafe near me that has a great children's menu with lots of more balanced, healthier options, so I definitely think it's the way to go :)

  2. I've found a lot of restaurants have disappointing childrens options and we tend to ask for a smaller version of the main menu (or one adult portion on two plates) for our boys, as the choice is usually (strangely) much healthier. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog - your posts are always so well observed and offer great food for thought!

  3. Hi Lucy - glad you've been having some positive experiences and finding some good, healthier menus for children out there. Let's hope that continues.

    Blissful Mum - I agree that often the main menu options tend to be healthier. Thanks so much for your kind comment about the blog in general too, it's really nice to know you enjoy it.

  4. My daughter is just reaching the age where I want to order her a meal at a resturant but the portion sizes are too large. I have yet to go to a restuaurant with her where the kids menu has anything on it that I would actually feed her! I do know of one place, The Inn on the Green in Cookham, where their approach to kids meals is just smaller versions of the adults meals and thats exactly what I'm looking for. Argh, why do most restaurants not understand???


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!