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

food, kid health, kids nutrition


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tuffy... tuffymama

We eat grain free and organic, so...

PonyC... PonyChaser

Newsflash!! Most people don't feed their kids this way!! They're restaurants for a reason. Because people don't eat at them daily. Honestly, don't these people have better things to spend time and money on? How much does this organization get from the governement to tell us exactly what we already knew??

Restaurants offer what people will eat. MOST kids like chicken fingers, mac n' cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches. And if they're eating regular decent meals at home, nobody should be freaking out if, even once a week, they eat off the dreaded, evil kid's menu.

Vegeta Vegeta

Yeah what's so bad about a restaurant meal every once and awhile? Kids arent eating at applebees every night. (if they are, can their parents adopt me?)

Eddie... EddiesMama83

OMG, a little fat in your kids diet is the worst thing that would ever happen to them! 

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

We rarely order off of kids menus. If we are having Italian my son orders pasta marinara off the kids menu or if we go to Red Robin he has a veggie burger but that's about it. Mostly he orders from the appetizer sections or the lighter options section like a lunch portion or a bowl of soup. That's assuming we don't just share something.

The things he eats out might not necessarily be healthy, he has a thing for deep fried veggies like pakoras or tempura, but they're still healthier and far tastier than kids menu options like hot dogs. What's the point in eating out if you're just going to buy the kind of junk you could microwave at home.

Valerie Metzger

Those are pretty terrible examples. How bout low fat white milk instead of chocolate, and subbing fries/mashed potatoes (who eats mashed potatoes with their mac and cheese?) for the fruit or veggie option that is almost always there.

Somehow I just don't think a chicken finger every now and then is going to do my son that much crazy damage, especially if he's chasing it with broccoli and plain milk.

da_mi... da_miranda

our family of three always order 2 meals for all of us. Sure to cut down a bit of calorie for me & hubby, and it's all enough for our 4 years old son little tummy.

nonmember avatar Kate

When we do take our 4 year old twins out, they can have the chicken fingers, but they get fruit and milk or water with it. As a parent, read the menu. It gives options, they aren't forcing the french fries and soda with a kids meal. Same with dessert, it doesn't HAVE to come with the meal. Treat your kids to a dinner out, but give them limits and everyone is happy!

insei... inseineangel

I read too many conflicting things on this site... Wasn't there just an article on here recently about how 'low-fat' milk is now being said to lead to future obesity? 

And seriously, unless you are taking your kids out every night and letting them eat all this garbage, I'm sure they're not going to magically wake up one day and suddenly weigh 50lbs more, have a heart attack, or suddenly drop dead from the oh-so evil fat. From what I have read over the past few weeks, I think the Cafe Mom community has a common belief of EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.

Take your kid out for some greasy deep-fried chicken tenders and some fries every once in a while isn't going to kill them, or you. 

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