I went to the pub for a meal last week and they were offering a free children’s meal with every adult’s meal. So what was in a children’s meal? Well, there was a choice of mains, like chicken nuggets, plus a soft drink, plus a dessert, like a chocolate frog in jelly.
(Yeah, a chocolate frog in jelly. It was like The Pub That Time Forgot.)
I ordered my five-year-old son a ham-and-pineapple pizza. It turned up and it was huge: six slices. The waiter put it down in front of him and said, “Eat all that and you can have dessert.”
I think what he meant to say was, “Eat all that and you can have a heart attack in your thirties.”
I got my son a glass of water instead of the free soft drink, and didn’t mention to him about the chocolate frog in jelly. (I am officially a Mean Mum.)
Okay, so this is nothing new. Children’s meals have been crap for years. But why isn’t anything changing? When everyone is aware of how important it is to get kids eating healthily, why are children’s meals still so crap?
Sure, you could say parents want to buy meals they know their kids will eat. But aren’t there just as many parents who want to buy meals for their kids that have some kind of nutritional value?
One city council in America has had enough. They’ve decided that if restaurants aren’t going to change their ways, they’re going to force them, legally. In Davis, California, as of last month, a “kids’ meal” isn’t allowed to include a soft drink or juice. It has to be water or milk. If parents want to give their child a soft drink or juice, they have to specifically request it.
Kari Fry, a mum living in Davis, has welcomed the new law.
“I certainly give my kids soda every once in a while on special occasion and prefer that to be at my choice and not a confrontation at the restaurant, where the parent is by default the bad guy, taking the sugary treat away,” she says.
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In the US, childhood obesity rates have doubled in the past 30 years. Health experts pin part of the blame on soft drinks. Currently, American teenagers drink more soft drink than milk.
I mean, that’s just wrong.
We need to change what’s “normal” when it comes to a kids’ meal. How about a grilled chicken burger instead of chicken nuggets, or a pizza with veggies rather than one with ham? How about a dessert that has some kind of fruit in it, even if it has a bit of ice cream on the side? How about not automatically including a soft drink with the meal?
You could say that parents could just choose something off the adult menu for their kids, but who is going to knock back a free children’s meal?
Most kids like eating out. My kids are both fussy eaters, but are more likely to try new things when we go somewhere new. I’d rather that new thing be a vegetable than a chocolate frog in jelly.
Should there be a law about it? Well, maybe.
What do you think of the children’s meals on offer when you eat out?