Kids’ menus are changing for the better as well. Just last week, over 15,000 restaurants joined in the new nationwide initiative to provide healthier menus for children. One goal of the National Restaurant Association initiative, called "Kids Live Well" is to bring restaurants into the solution of providing healthier menus for children who are dining out with their parents. The Association reports that the menu will focus on increased availability of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains and will limit unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.
To participate, the restaurant needs to offer:
A children’s meal (an entrée, side and beverage) with 600 calories or less; two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; with limits on sodium, fats and sugar
At least one other individual item with 200 calories or less, with limits on fats, sugars and sodium. It must also contain a serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy
While these initiatives are wonderful, they are just a start. These initiatives fall short on several levels. First, providing children with meals that are "600 calories or less" is still a tremendous number of calories for a child’s meal, depending on the age of the child. Secondly, these initiatives will not work in a vacuum of non-parental involvement. Nutrition is a parenting responsibility. One of the downsides of eating out with children is that kids begin to think that they have "right to choose" what they want to eat at all times. Most individuals who were interviewed regarding the healthier items being added to the menu were quick to add that "unhealthy items were not being removed." Without parental involvement, children will not necessarily choose the better items. Unfortunately also, many parents will easily succumb to pressure rather than tolerate a tantrum when dinning out. When families eat at home, most parents do not prepare multiple meals but prepare one meal for the family. This teaches children important lessons about food and manners for eating in a family setting.