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The Kids' Menu and Other Dangerous Things to Keep Your Children From

It is easy to lose track of how much bad food our kids are eating

Dr Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

The Kids’ Menu and Other Dangerous Things to Keep Your Children From

There was a time when going to a restaurant was a rare treat, done on special occasions.  If 1960s TV sitcoms tell us anything, it is that children stayed at home while Daren and Samantha went out to eat with the other advertising executives.   Kids’ menus were one of the many things the restaurant industry did to get people to eat out more, alongside crayons, toys, and grown men dressed as clowns.  The other thing the restaurant industry did was convince us that cooking at home like Grandma is something we are not capable of anymore. 

If you look at the kids’ menu it is simply a list of the worst foods available, cheap, high in calories, fat, and sugar.  Sadly though, the adult menu is not much better.  Now if we ate out rarely that wouldn’t be so bad, but Americans consume more than a third of their meals outside the home or prepared by someone else.  Given that, our kids are fed low quality food much of the time.  Those chicken fingers and French fries add up.  In addition, with both parents working or with everyone overscheduled, there is less time in the day to make a healthy meal at home.  Many of us resort to instant fixes, take out food, or processed foods for meals at home.

My suggestion is that first and foremost limit how many times you outsource your meals to someone else. Cook at home, cook from scratch, pack a healthy lunch for your kids.  Second, when eating out, pick restaurants that have some options available to the kids besides chicken fingers and French fries.  A whole wheat bagel with peanut butter is much better than a donut or muffin. Do not fall into the trap that your kids need to eat meat at every single meal for protein.  This is false.  Do not think there is anything wholesome or ‘clean’ about mac n cheese. Order some pasta with marinara sauce. Ask for a baked potato instead of the fries.  Ask for carrot sticks but do not succumb to the ranch dressing ploy.  Instead ask for some hummus with the carrot sticks or guacamole.  The restaurant industry succumbed to the 'no-gluten' requests; they will succumb to the 'no fat with my vegetable' request.  

Here is a short list of some options at various types of restaurants: rice and beans, a bean burrito, roti bread with dal, falafel, steamed vegetable dumplings, pizza without the cheese, a veggie burger on a whole wheat bun, tofu stir fry, pasta fagioli, etc.  Do not think giving them juice or milk is healthy.  Give them water with their meal.  If they are not hungry don’t force them to eat.  Chances are if they have already consumed a high calorie, high fat, high sugar meal at lunch then they may in fact not be hungry.   Dessert should be fruit…..period.  Cookies and cake are not special anymore; they are readily available everywhere at all times, especially at school.  Our kids are eating too much of this stuff. 

You wouldn’t give your kids cigarettes, let them run around the house with scissors, or text and drive.....don’t give them food off the kids’ menu.

For recipes and ideas for healthy meals at home:

Other articles by Padma Garvey