Eating out: Children need smaller portions, not dumbed down food

Dave Monro, Heart Foundation Food and Nutrition Manager, says although most adult (main) menus feature a number of healthy options, children’s menus are all too often coming up short. “What we’re seeing is a lot of fried foods, high-sugar beverages and very few vegetables being offered to children when they’re dining out with their parents,” he says. “It’s true that parents and kids often want a treat when they’re eating out as a family, but that doesn’t mean unhealthy items should be dominating children’s menus.”

In September this year, the Heart Foundation assessed the menus of 79 cafés and restaurants (not fast food restaurants) across New Zealand. The key findings were 49% of children’s menu items came with deep-fried chips, and 32% offered a deep-fried meal as the main item. Only 38% of meal items were listed as coming with vegetables, and 43% of menus offered children’s drinks, with most being mocktails, spiders, soft drinks and juices. Monro says the findings are highly concerning given about one-third of New Zealand children are overweight or obese.

“Good nutrition, particularly in the early years of life, is fundamental to health. Children who are overweight or obese face a greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure as they grow older.”

The government recently announced its childhood obesity plan and highlighted the food industry’s important role in helping to tackle the problem.

“All sectors of the food and beverage industry need to play their part,” Monro says.

Kids’ menus are created on the basis that kids are fussy eaters and, when it comes to chicken nuggets and chips, they are likely to get exactly what they expect.

It is definitely a good move and a great challenge for restaurants to create decent kids’ menus where the food is just as good, just as healthy and just presents smaller portions.

That’s what most of us do at home, so why do we expect different when eating out?


– Heart Foundation

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