Obesity and child nutrition have become the top conversation starter in our food friendly media, but identifying the most relevant way for hotels and restaurants to get involved is a much more difficult discussion. No single industry is better positioned to be a positive force in the battle for a healthier eating than hospitality, but it?s not going to be easy. If it was easy, it would already be done.
While joining Michelle Obama?s campaign ?Chef?s Move to Schools? is a great way for any chef to get involved in the school lunch issue, there are other things we can do to be a part of the solution to this issue. A focus on calories is important, eliminating unnecessary fats and sugar from the preparation of kids menu items. Taking it one step further, a sincere effort to reduce the amount of what would be called ?processed? foods and drive the menu development around fresher ingredients. Blue Ribbon Bakery in New York has created a ?Naked Nugget?, an unbreaded chicken nugget of all natural chicken, for their kid customers, appealing so much to their guests that they are now producing the product commercially. Parents recognize this, appreciate it, and are thankful for the choice? even if the ultimate order is mac-n-cheese.
Operators should take a hard look at the menus offered our littlest travelers. Is there a good selection of items to choose from that is not fried, brown food? Menu analysis indicate that the ?healthiest? items lag in popularity, but slowly there is a trend to less fried and more fresh, which is very encouraging. I have three kids — one foodie, one non-foodie, and one undecided. My kids are good road warriors in their own right, but when traveling the last thing I need is a battle with ?Mr. Non-Foodie? when we are traveling. I?ve been there and certainly get it when parents say they want healthier choices, but cave at the last minute to the chicken fingers and fries. There is no harm in sneaking in a few fresh vegetables or fruit to accompany those fried bits.
Below are the unedited results of an unofficial poll of my youngest two kids. Nothing scientific or groundbreaking revelation, but the experts have spoken:
- What do you like about kids menus?
- Games you can play before the food gets there
- Nothing ?baby? (the 10 year old wants a big kid menu)
- Favorites? What do you like to order?
- Mac n cheese
- Chicken fingers, but sometimes Steak & Fries
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- What do you wish kids menus offered?
- Watermelon and pineapple ?sticks?
- Smaller hamburgers (photo attached)
Care to weigh in? (pun intended!) It would be great to hear your thoughts on where kids menus are going.