The Truth About Kids Menus at Restaurants Could Change How You Order

chicken fingersGee, what a surprise! A new report from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), finds that a whopping 97 percent of “kids meals” at chain restaurants do not meet nutrition requirements for four- to eight-year-olds. And, lest you think to yourself, hey, what is the CSPI anyway? Consider this: 91 percent of kids’ meals at America’s major chains do not even meet the nutritional standards of the National Restaurant Association’s lobbying group’s Kids LiveWell program.

Um, gee, ya think? This doesn’t exactly come as a major newsflash, does it? I mean, let’s consider the typical fare presented as kids’ options at just about ANY restaurant, not even just the major chains ....


Burgers, mac and cheese, chicken fingers, hot dogs ... am I missing anything? Oh yeah -- grilled cheese on white bread! And to drink? Something nice and sugary, of course!

To meet CSPI’s nutrition criteria, kids’ meals must not exceed 430 calories, and they can’t get more than 35 percent of calories from fat (or more than 10 percent of calories from saturated plus trans fat). They also must have less than 35 percent added sugars, no more than 770 milligrams of sodium, and contain at least half a serving of veggies or fruit. A HALF a serving? Come on! None of these requirements seem overly stringent, but Subway is the ONLY chain restaurant to get with the program: all eight of “Fresh Fit for Kids” meal combinations met CSPI’s nutrition criteria, and come along with low-fat milk or bottled water.

Some of the worst options for kids include Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Fries and 2 Percent Chocolate Milk -- that clocks in at a whopping 1,210 calories with 62 grams of total fat (46 percent of calories), 21 grams of saturated fat (16 percent), and 2,340 milligrams of sodium. Ruby Tuesday’s Mac ’n Cheese, White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Fruit Punch has 860 calories, 46 grams of total fat (48 percent of calories) and 1,730 mg of sodium.

Seriously people, this is CRAZINESS!! What kind of way is this to feed our kids? Do restaurants think they’re serving Tony Soprano or 50-pound little people? My husband and I have basically avoided the kids menu since our daughter was old enough to actually hold a fork, but we don’t want to buy her a full meal because it’s a waste of money, so I usually end up ordering something we both like so we can share. That’s not to say my kid hasn’t eaten her fair share of chicken fingers, but that’s a result of either being at a pool snack-bar type of place or me just giving in out of exhaustion. Another Chardonnay please!

I’m all for a smaller, more reasonably priced menus for kids, but why do they have to be greasy ghettos devoid of basic nutrients? How about a veggie pizza, or roasted chicken instead of fried, or some scaled-down choice from the -- gasp! -- adult menu? Children learn to like what they are fed from a young age. Sure they’re not going to like some things no matter what, but it’s a sin when the entire menu category we offer to our kids is filled with nothing but fat, oil, and sugar.

What do you usually order your kids when you go out to eat?


Image via lehighvalleypa/Flickr

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