The other day I took my toddler to McDonald’s for lunch (I know! I’m a bad mother!). She got Chicken McNuggets, apple slices (with no caramel sauce) and chocolate milk. While she ate her apples, I checked the package — zero grams of fiber. It was still a better choice than French fries, but there was actually nothing nutritional in the slices themselves (there was a big fat zero next to every other nutritional data line, too, except for sugar).
But I wasn’t taking her to McDonald’s to be healthy. She eschews French fries because she just doesn’t like them. We don’t go to McDonald’s or any other fast food restaurant often and, frankly, if she wanted fries and a burger, I’d be A-OK with that (in fact, I’d be amused, since except for the occasional chicken nugget, she is a self-imposed vegetarian).
Still, I guess it’s good to hear that 19 restaurant chains plan on adding healthier options to their kids’ meal menus. But if you’re taking your kids out to these chains — like Burger King, Chili’s Friendly’s or IHOP — more than occasionally, wouldn’t you be better off eating at home and using the money you would have spent eating out on buying healthier food to serve your kids at the kitchen table? Why would anyone depend on a fast food chain for seriously nutritional options — since when is it anyone’s job but yours to act responsibly, like parents are supposed to act?
The chains have announced their intentions to include low-sugar, low-sodium items to their menus, as well as options with increased servings of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Still, like the zero fiber McDonald’s apples, I’m skeptical. For instance, Chili’s plans to offer a chicken sandwich with a side of pineapple or mandarin orange on their kids’ menu. Unless either fruit is served fresh (yeah, right), what’s so healthy about canned fruit that’s been soaking in sugary syrup? You might as well get the fries.
Like parents who cry that television commercials aimed at kids need to be toned down, I would argue that they should just not let their kids watch TV. Or watch it with their kids. I’m not sure why restaurants and other companies targeting kids are to blame for kids wanting to eat or play with what they sell. Isn’t it up to us as parents to teach our kids to make healthy choices, indulge every once in a while, and not focus so much on what everyone is trying to get us to do and instead do what we know and teach them to be right?
The participating restaurants have banded together as part of a new National Restaurant Association initiative that aims to give kids healthier options, and to make them easier to find. Restaurants must include at least one kids menu item under 600 calories, with a side dish that has less than 200 calories. The other participating chains are: Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chevys, Chili’s, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Friendly’s, IHOP, Joe’s Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery and zpizza.
Do you think this new initiative will really make a difference, or do you think it’s just another hollow attempt to appease parents, and kids (and their parents) will continue making poor choices at these restaurants anyway?
Image: Creative Commons
This mom insists: My kids eat fast food and they’re still healthy