The Kids Menu is Horrible for Your Kids

Image via Flickr/ Christian Heindel

Haile Thomas is a 12-year-old chef who has partnered with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts to develop healthy menu items for kids. She is against kids getting accustomed to eating from the “kids” menu and I am too.

If you pay attention, and I know you do, I’m sure you’ve noticed that “kids” menu or deemed “kid-friendly” must be code for deep fried, processed and either dipped in sugar, cheese or some kind of rich sauce. Of course kids like that. Who doesn’t like something sweet or covered in cheese?

As I read about Haile Thomas and how she is changing the way the “kids” menu and “kid-friendly” is viewed it made me take a look at my own children’s eating habits.

When my girls were little they ate baby food, just like your babies, and with the exception of a couple of the meat products they loved everything I put in front of them. There were no picky eaters in my house.

Then when they went to more solid foods, I gave them everything my husband and I ate in much smaller portions because I wanted them eat healthy and be open to new foods. In fact, we have a strict you have to try every food twice policy, after that, you can decide whether or not you want to try it again but you have to try every food that is presented to you, at least twice.

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Then, when the girls were around 3 and 5 and my hands were very full with children and my husband was working out of town in a different state, things got out of control. I was doing a lot on my own and sometimes I just didn’t have the energy to make dinner and the girls had their first taste of “kid-friendly” food.

As I looked at the menu, I realized that everything on the menu was deep fried (chicken tenders, French fries, tater tots), greasy (hamburger or pizza), carbohydrate filled (macaroni and cheese) or contained nitrates (hotdogs). At the time, I thought my best option was white meat chicken tenders with honey mustard dipping sauce. I thought I chose well, opting for mandarin oranges and milk versus soda or French fries. But then, every time we went anywhere to eat the girls wanted chicken tenders or nuggets to the exclusion of all else. I had created a 3-year-old chicken nugget-eating monster. I had given my kid her first taste of bad food.

I was never that mom that thought a kid can never have a Happy Meal or never watch television, but I’ve learned from experience that my life would be a lot easier and their lives a lot healthier if nuggets never existed.

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In case you haven’t already figured this out, nuggets are like crack to little kids. They will and can exist on nuggets alone if you let them. I had a problem. As parents, we are misled to believe that “kids meals” are the only things our kids will eat but really by not first allowing them the opportunity to try what we are eating ourselves, we are starting that bad habit. They can’t crave what they’ve never had. I did that to them. I messed up. Add in the fact that the kids meals are less expensive than your average regular dish at your local chain locale and you can bet, most parents are going with the kids menus too. 

I tried to wean them off of the nuggets. It was hard. I should have never introduced nuggets into the mix and they never would have known what they were missing. Eventually, we overcame the nugget addiction, but it was hard and whenever we go to a restaurant, they still want nuggets. I don’t keep them in the house and we try to vary the types of places we eat. Now, they try everything and eat what we decide is appropriately healthy and diverse.

From my perspective, this is part of the slippery slope of the childhood obesity epidemic. Maybe the “kids menu” should just feature smaller portions of the adult menu rather than fried foods, dipped in cheese and covered in sauces.  I've been to restaurants where my girls have requested to swap out french fries for a small side salad and the establishment look completely baffled and had no idea how to address our request.

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We’ve become a society who expects our children to eat a steady diet of deep-fried, high fat, high cholesterol foods and then we are shocked that they are overweight. Something has to change and it starts with us, the parents. We need to take what Haile Thomas has started and work to have it move on into the rest of our dining establishments. 

How do you handle ordering food for your small children when eating out? Do they order off the kid’s menu or do you share your own meal?

What do you think?

The Kids Menu is Horrible for Your Kids

Deborah Cruz, @TruthfulMommy, is the creator of The TRUTH about Motherhood, an often humorous and brutally honest look at motherhood. She's a writer, a wife, and a work-at-home Mommy who's trying to do it all well. She live in the Midwest with her 2 little girls and her husband. She has a lot of degrees from a bunch of schools but mostly spends her days shuttling people under the age of 7, while trying to maintain her sanity and she wouldn't have it any other way. She talks a lot. She ... More

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7 comments

  1. misslissy says:

    Part of the reason we did baby led weaning is so that our kids would develop healthy tastes. On the one hand, the kids’ menu appeals to me for the cheaper price and for the smaller portions, but at the same time, he likes and will eat what we like, so why shouldn’t he have that? I don’t know what we will do yet.

  2. Brenda says:

    There is nothing wrong with eating chicken nuggets, UNLESS you eat them every day for every meal! Stop depriving your children of being a kid! The problem of obesity is the fact that kids today do not get off of their butts and PLAY! They sit around indoors on the computer, watching TV, playing video games or talking on their cell phones! That’s the cause of obesity, not the food! Our parents and grandparents ate fried food all the time and were not obese nor did they have the health problems people have today because they worked outdoors from sun up to sun down. Get those kids active!

  3. dvmsara says:

    This shouldn’t be a big deal unless you eat out very frequently. I can’t see how eating nuggets and fries once every few weeks is really going to hurt anybody.

  4. amanda says:

    We got our little boy a chicken nugget happy meal only a few hours ago, and he shared with his 1 year old sister GASP! Like everything else in life, it’s about moderation. Our son knows that it’s a special treat and is sooooo happy to get one, but he eats plenty of healthy foods too. I grew up eating off the kids menu and I am not fat, nor unhealthy.

  5. it seems like people are way more obsessed with kids diets now than 15-20 years ago but yet kids keep getting fatter..

  6. yeah, I plan on not giving them fast food but we’ll see how it goes. It’s one of the main reasons I fear letting my son go out of my sight. Even with (especially with) family.

  7. MAMASEXXY says:

    I FIGURED THAT OUT A LONG TIME AGO, MY DAUGHTER DOESN’T EAT THEIR HAPPY MEALS. SHE USUAL WANTS CHICKEN NUGGETS FROM BURGER KING.

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