In this day and age of 2 parents working, non-stop activities and lack of domestic skills, it’s inevitable that many families find themselves dining out more often than they’d like to admit. There’s the post-practice pizza parlor or a quick pass through a fast food drive-thru while running errands. But what about the relaxing night out with the family – a genuine treat rather than practical necessity?
More and more restaurant menus are calling attention to the lighter, healthier options. In fact, for some who lack the time & motivation to cook regularly, that restaurant meal can often be a healthier alternative to eating at home. The meals tend to be well-balanced – protein, starch and veggies – and everyone can order something they truly enjoy.
Well, not everyone. Kids’ menus are another story, aren’t they? Parents often look to see if a restaurant has a kids’ menu for two reasons. 1) It is important to know in advance if a restaurant is kid-friendly. 2) Parents want to know that there are food options appropriate for children at affordable prices.
While the first issue is rather straightforward, it’s the second that poses some concern. When children eat at home, most are exposed to whatever their parents are eating. This is likely to include a variety of proteins, vegetables and side dishes. However, restaurant fare often includes fried chicken fingers, dumbed down & dried out versions of the adult burger, cheese pizza with canned sauce and a greasy grilled cheese sandwich. Throw in a side of fries and you have a kids’ meal, often served with soft drinks rather than milk or 100% juice.
If it is the goal of society to help raise healthy children, why then are we sending kids the wrong message about what qualifies as “kid food?” Offer kid-sized portions of the grilled chicken and veggie dishes. Serve half the number of fries and add some steamed broccoli without parents having to gravel for substitutions.
Ultimately, it is every parent’s responsibility to take control over the family menu. When eating out, simply order that grown-up platter that comes with soup, salad – far more food than you should eat, and share it with your child. Maybe restaurants will begin to catch on and offer some interesting parent-child combinations that would give parents the opportunity to expose their kids to healthier, more “grown-up” options without breaking the bank or ordering more food than a family can consume.