A meal out with the family is a great way to get a night off from cooking and spend some quality time together. But are you happy with the children’s menu on offer? Are restaurants doing enough to consider kid’s nutrition, particularly in terms of fat, sugar and salt? We put a selection of children’s menu under the nutrition microscope.
Popular restaurant chains have been under pressure to revamp their children’s menu and design kids recipes that encourage healthy eating. In the US, they have made little progress to improve the nutritional profile of children’s meals. Since meals were last analysed in 2008, a recent report found that 97% of nearly 3,500 meals failed to meet the standards set by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest for 4 to 8 year olds.
To meet the CSPI nutrition criteria, kid’s meals must not exceed:
- 430 calories
- 35% of calories from saturated fat plus trans fats
- 35% added sugars
In addition, a full children’s meal must contain less than 770mg of salt.
So in the UK, have restaurants managed to remove the chicken nuggets and chips and replace it with chicken breast and potatoes? Or is the unlimited ice cream and fizzy drinks still high on the menu, with vegetables and milk not getting a mention? Let’s find out.
We reviewed the childrens’ menu from three popular restaurant chains, to see which offered the most in terms of kid’s nutrition.
The Harvester’s kids menu offered a good variety of options for fussy eaters and included calories beside each meal. Vegetables included peas, corn and beans with an unlimited salad bar. All meals would have come in with CSPI nutrition criteria with regards to calories however salt content was still too high.
Although the menu contained no nutritional information, they offered a large selection of roast meats and vegetables. The challenge with this restaurant is getting the kids to opt for the vegetables as they were not served on their plate.
Drinks included diluted fruit juice and water, a big tick in the box, with no fizzy drinks.
This restaurant performed the worst out of the three, offering high calorie meals with few vegetables and a host of calorific desserts. The highest calorie meal was chicken nuggets with chips and beans at 706 kcals and 3,200mg of salt. The children’s banana spilt was 663 calories. Not only was the menu high in saturated fat and salt but the portion sizes were far too large.
How easy is it for you to get your kids to eat a balanced meal when your out for dinner? Do you have any favourite restaurants, and why? Tweet us @eatbalanced or leave a comment.