I’m a busy working mom. And approximately once a week, I give in to temptation and take my daughter out to dinner instead of scrounging around for a healthy meal at home. We try a variety of restaurants, and normally invite a friend or family member along for dinner conversation. It’s a pretty consistent habit for my daughter and me. And as a woman who frequently eats out with an elementary-age child, I didn’t need any study to inform me that restaurant meals – even at ‘family restaurants’ – really suck at providing tasty, nutritious options for children.
According to Reuters,
The menus offered to children by most U.S. restaurant chains have too many calories, too much salt or fat, and often not a hint of vegetables or fruit, according to a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
There is zero surprising information here. In fact, I would add that the few bits of fruits and veggies that are offered are uninspired, or just plain gross. At my daughter’s favorite chain restaurant, there’s an option to trade out her side order of french fries for a “seasonal vegetable.” The vegetable is ALWAYS steamed broccoli, my little girl’s least favorite green thing on the planet. If there was ever green beans or cauliflower or even cooked carrots, I might be able to convince her to try it. But broccoli is a no go.
In general, kids’ menus consist of pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders, hamburgers, and hot dogs. That is it. No matter what type of cuisine they serve to adults, no matter how fancy or expensive their menu is. French fries come on the side, with maybe the option for applesauce instead.
Honestly, the terrible choices out there for moms looking for healthy treats make it difficult to get excited about taking my daughter out to dinner sometimes. After speaking to some local restaurant orders, we’ve been able to order lunch portions of healthy adult meals. But the fact that some many mothers are bending over backwards to create exciting, nutritious meals their kids will actually eat, only to faced with fried meat and potatoes every time they take their children out to dinner, is extremely frustrating.
I realize that plenty of restaurants will say that they’re only responding to demand. Kids like chicken tenders and french fries. And really, they do like it, because it’s been shoved down their throats since they were toddlers. The only other options are normally bland, boring or both.
If I could find a restaurant that spent the smallest amount of thought and time into created tasteful children’s meals, ones that gave them a variety of vegetables and flavors, I would become one of the most dedicated and loyal customers you could find. Unfortunately, most eateries seem incapable of coming up with imaginative ways to get children eating healthy. And honestly, if they’re incapable of achieving decent children’s food, maybe we shouldn’t trust their regular menu either.