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The healthy kids menu began with fast food chains… but now the trend is beginning to pick up among restaurants. In July 2011, the National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dinning (healthydinningfinder.com) launched a voluntary initiative called Kids Living Well. A move in the fast food industry for healthier kids menu options. The criteria for the healthy meal is an entrée, side dish and beverage that total 600 calories or less. For example, Burger King’s breakfast muffin sandwich with apple fries (slices of apples) and low-fat milk. Kids getting the adequate protein and a balanced meal has been an ongoing issue. Just a couple of months ago, when Congress tried to pass Pizza as a vegetable. Naturally, the media turned it in to some joke- because we all know that is just preposterous. However, it was an eye opener to parents that their kids are not getting the a healthful  lunch at school.

Many parents don’t have the time to cook and choose to pay for school lunches and eat out for dinner. Which is why healthier kids’ menus at restaurants is important- children are getting about a third of their calories from eating out, and eating out is among the many contributors to obesity.

Chefs opting to buy organic produce and vegetables, is a sign that the restaurant industry has picked up on the eating healthy trend. The next challenge, is providing a menu, that’s healthy and appealing to kids. We all know how picky children can be, and finding healthy food that kids will eat is a common fight that many mother’s are familiar with.

My advice:

  • Whether you go to a family restaurant, a Chinese restaurant or even a Mexican restaurant the kids menu’s usually include; chicken fingers, fries, burgers, pizza and hot dogs. Even if they do not belong to the type of cuisine, it is what kids like. A lot of parents base their decision on a restaurant on “if the kids could eat there?” Since many parents are becoming more aware of their child’s diet, you want your menu to satisfy healthy food expectations- so families will choose to dine at your restaurant. Offering things like baked potatoes, grilled meats, fruit cups- things that are familiar to kids.. will satisfy both parties. Also, giving the option of something that may be on the adult menu may be appealing to older children. Offering something like fajitas, which is healthy.. and hands-on “fun” food that you put together on your own, can be appealing.
  • I think the design of the menu can make a difference too. In many family restaurants, child’s menus are a piece of paper that has mazes and games. Even though this is a great distraction for toddlers, older kids want “real menus.”  I think providing a folded menus along with the placement menus can be more enticing. Older kids want to be treated like “adults,” so avoid using the word “kiddy” or “peewee” for the name of dishes.
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