Olive Garden Kids' Menu Changes Are Delusional

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olive gardenYour favorite "Italian" eatery and mine, the Olive Garden, is changing their menu. Don't worry! It may be for the better. The Garden has updated its kids' menu -- time to say goodbye to the kiddie French fries and milkshakes and say hello to grapes and fruit smoothies. Woo.

While I know that fries and milkshakes are clearly unhealthy options, I don't want to start giving the Olive Garden too much credit here for this change. It's certainly a step in the right direction, but with the kids' sized Fettuccine Alfredo on the menu with a whopping 800 calories (which is more than half the daily caloric recommendation for a 5-year-old), is this no-fries/no-shake situation still a win?

I don't think so. The fries and milkshakes were calorie bombs (400 calories and 540 respectively) and I agree it's a good move to take them off the menu, but it's still like searching for a needle in a bread and cheese haystack when looking for healthy items on the menu.

And what about the adults and the parents? Hey, I'm with you guys. The last time I found myself at the Olive Garden in rural Texas, I went to town on some endless pasta and bread sticks. It was a refined-carb feast and I loved every bite. So while the kids' menu is getting a little healthy makeover, we in the over 12 set are still gonna be in trouble.

The kiddies might be getting better options at the O.G., but we adults are still on the path to cardiac arrest with Pork Milanese (1,510 calories, 87 grams of fat), Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara (1,440 calories, 88 grams of fat), and my personal fave, Five-Cheese Ziti al Forno (1,050 calories, 48 grams of fat). I love cheese.

So! I would still say that the Olive Garden is not necessarily a family-friendly place. The changes to the kids' menu are delusional -- it's not like the chain is now some sort of healthy restaurant option for parents and kids. No way.

While the kids can get grapes and smoothies with their pizza or chicken fingers, everyone else will order what they want and die of a cheese coma or a stomach explosion due to bread stick and pasta overload. Maybe our less heart-damaged kids can drive us to the hospital when we're seizing on the floor. "Grab Mommy's keys, son! It's time you learned how to drive."

Do you think the Olive Garden is family-friendly?


Photo via marbla123/Flickr

eating out, kid-friendly, pasta

31 Comments

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meatb... meatball77

I'm always thankful when they allow a side choice that isn't fries.  I don't let my daughter order fries (she's allowed to eat them off my plate but not order an entire serving unless it's the only option) and she'd much rather have a smoothie and grapes.


And really why are kids ordering chicken fingers at the Olive Garden.  Get spaghetti or ravioli.

nonmember avatar Shelly

It is entirely possible to eat healthy at Olive Garden. We do! There are healthy options, you just have to be willing to order them. (and not eat those bread-sticks!) I am all for better options a kids menu. My son would love the smoothie much more then junk.

Madel... Madelaine

Sounds like a good change!

Littl... LittleManMama

You can order whole wheat pasta and a tomato based sauce with shrimp or chicken for  a healthy alternative

bills... billsfan1104

I Love the steak gorganzola alfredo and I add portabello mushrooms to it. yummy!!!!!!!!!! You can still eat that stuff, but you have to portion it all out.

Pishyah Pishyah

Honestly, people don't really go to OG for healthy food options.  They go for a nice meal out.  I've been ticked at their kid's menu because there's nothing on there worthy of the food that I get.  When we go to TGI Friday's, my kid gets ribs.  That's a $7 kid's meal and of COURSE it isn't healthy.  He gets a side of oranges because he likes oranges, not because we're trying to eat healthy.  When I buy a $15 dinner at OG and then pay $6 for a bowl of crappy spaghetti we're both ticked off.  He wants something equal to what I have and I expect a nicer restaurant to have those options.  What's wrong with having some chicken and shrimpa carbonera in a kid's size?

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

Maybe they're trying to get in this families where the parents make the kids eat healthy stuff while they stuff their faces with crap. Then again, I have a hard time picturing anyone who cares about health at all going in there. The other day I pulled in their parking lot to turn around and I think my cholesterol went up ten points just driving by the door.

Pishyah Pishyah

Furthermore, I don't see why they have so few options.  The place is expensive, nice, and they can afford to printout a couple more options for kids.  Have some healthy, not so healthy options, good options, and some bland fries and chicken nuggets options. 

Nicho... NicholasMama608

My son is 3yrs old and we got to Olive Garden all the time.  It's his favorite place to eat(over ALL fast food places).  His favorite food is pasta so he loves going there.  He knows how to sit nice, play with his toys quietly(a Matchbox car or small action figure that doesn't make noise) or look at a book or color while we wait for food.  Of course it's family friendly.


I don't agree with them changing their menu up.  It's nice to add things to it so parents can have another option besides fries but for kids like mine who don't get fries at home and don't get fast food, fries are a treat.  If I want him to have some I don't see why he can't.  Plus my son is very small for his age so he's not at risk of being overweight or obese so there is no reason he can't have "fattier" foods.  His nutritionist actually said that it would do him good to have "bad" food every once in a while to get him to bulk up some since he is so tiny.  He's 3yrs old and about the size of a 2yr old.  I'll still order him fries.  They have them in the restaurant and there is no reason why they can't put them with his pasta.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Nobody goes out to dinner expecting a meal to be as healthy as one you can make at home. That's the point. It's a treat. So long as you don't eat out every night, I see no problem with kids ordering what they want off the kid's menu. Or the adult menu, if they're in that super-growth-spurt phase of pre-teen-hood. Stigmatizing some foods as "bad" and others as "good" is only doing children a disservice. Teach healthy life choices instead. All food is fine in moderation. All food is bad in excess. Your plate should be balanced with protein, starch, and veggies and/or fruit. I don't to forbid certain foods--it just makes them more appealing and means when they have the opportunity when I'm not around, they're going to pig out on them. if you keep candy and junk food in the house, and offer it in moderation on a daily basis, you'll find that the appeal wears off very fast.

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