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What's Up with Kids' Food Menus?

School_LunchWhen I go out to eat at a restaurant, it never ceases to amaze me that every kid’s menu is the same…hot dogs/hamburgers, French fries, chicken fingers, pizza, and pasta which will also include a soft drink and a dish of ice cream. How did these things come to be designated as “kids’ food”? And what can we do to change our notion of what kids should eat?

Firstly, these processed food items are also the mainstay of fast food. Advertisers, using the power of 24-hour TV and now the internet, have done a Herculean luring our children to eat the wrong foods and too much of them. We are all aware of the rising incidence of obesity and diabetes in children. Yet a 15-year study published in The Lancet January 2005 which found that weight gain and development of prediabetes in our young were directly related to consumption of unhealthful fast food, hasn’t seemed to translate into a change on kids’ menus.

Other obstacles include the finances that drive the fast food industry which make it cheaper and perhaps easier to eat fries than fruit. Our school cafeterias are failing to set good examples with their menus reflective of “kids’ food”. Parents are also failing to model adequate consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and are reinforcing the processed, fast food as kids’ food. Just look at any kid’s birthday party, school celebration, or other festive occasions!

Change ought to begin with the institutions, like our schools and our professional nutritional organizations. However, when you have the American Dietetic Association spouting a motto like “All foods can fit”, you know we are facing an uphill battle (how do dead, chemically laden, processed, sugary foods benefit our children?). Change will have to begin within families that take the initiative and responsibility to find the nutritional answers for themselves and not rely on conventional nutritional wisdom – it hasn’t worked! Children need nutrient-dense, unprocessed, clean whole foods. We need to give them the opportunity to consume these foods.

Note to Parents:

You have to be a role model for your are the gatekeepers. Your children learn by watching you. Start by cutting back and/or eliminating fast food meals. At restaurants, avoid the children's menu and order meals for them from the regular menu. You can share meals between children to decrease cost and portion size or order healthy appetizers plus side veggies as the meals. Avoid fried foods -- look for baked/steamed/poached without gooey cheesey sauces. Make sure you start with salads or some other form of fresh vegetables. Rely on water as "the drink", not soda or juice. Order fresh fruit as dessert for you and your kids. At home, have fresh fruit and vegetables available for snacking and dessert.

Article by Amy Gordon:

Amy Gordon completed her undergraduate dietetic program at Montclair State University and dietetic internship at UMDNJ. She is certified as a vegetarian chef from the Natural Gourmet Cookery School, where she is presently their nutrition instructor. She is working on a master’s/Ph.D. program in holistic nutrition through Clayton College and has completed advanced training in Detoxification, Adult Weight Management, Integrative Energy Therapy, Electro-Dermal Screening, and Herbal and Homeopathic Supplementation.  Amy Gordon has a private practice as a nutritionist and is the staff nutritionist at the Integrative Care Center of Hospital for Special Surgery. She is also the featured nutrition expert for a soon to be published magazine in the health care industry.


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