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Dr Russ Blog - "Kids meals" not kid friendly
"Kids meals" not kid friendly
Created on 8/22/2008

Families are eating out more frequently than ever before. Studies suggest that children today get over 30% of their daily calories from eating out, a much higher proportion than even just a few years ago. You might think, "Why is this a problem? After all, many of the large restaurant chains now offer "kids meals." That's true, but the title "kids meal" is typically applied to food that is favored by kids, not necessarily to food that might actually be GOOD for them. The Center for Science in the Public Interest published a review of "kids meals" available at the some of the largest chain restaurants in the nation. They found that a few healthy options were offered by some chain restaurants, but they were relatively scarce. Over 90% of kids meal options were deemed to have too many calories for children aged 4-8 years old. Many of the calories came from the soft drinks offered in association with a typical "kids meal." In addition, many of the meal choices were high in sodium / salt, and contained significant amounts of saturated fat or trans fat.  

More and more restaurants are providing nutritional information to their customers. Just as it's important to read food labels when shopping, it's very important to review the nutritional information of meals available at restaurants. If your favorite dining place outside the home doesn't offer nutritional information, make a request that they do.

Even better, however, is to eat more meals at home. Yes, it's not easy to do these days now that we're all so busy, but there's little doubt that children can eat much more healthily at home than when eating out. Data suggest that children consume more fiber, less saturated fat and significantly fewer calories when they enjoy a meal at home. Plus, there's the added benefit from dining at home that your children know their meal was prepared with love.

As we often say, it's okay to splurge on occasion, but a steady diet of restaurant "kids meals" is clearly not good for our children. Macaroni and cheese, fried foods, burgers and soda are not healthy fare, even when listed as a "kids meal.". When you do take the children out for a meal, read the nutrition information that is now commonly found in association with specific kids meals. The information can help you make healthier choices for your children, and doing so can become a "teachable moment" for your family. Your children may beg and whine for their favorite fried fish or chicken with the high fat / sugary dessert, but exposure to these foods needs to be controlled and, in fact, minimized.

Harris Teeter offers many healthy food and menu options appropriate for children that can be prepared with little effort and time. Check out the wellness recipes and videos found under the yourwellness banner on the Harris Teeter web site, and commit to trying to eat more meals at home around your own kitchen / dining room table.

Enjoy taking the kids out for a meal on occasion, but be smart, and be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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