Why I don’t agree with kids menus

restaurant table

The other day I was browsing Yelp and came upon a review of a restaurant in which the reviewer commented that there was no kids menu at the restaurant. And that got me thinking – why do we even need kids menus? In fact the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t actually agree with kids menus at restaurants at all!

As a Registered Dietitian, I recommend fostering healthy eating by not making separate meals for your children, as this won’t teach children to eat a variety of foods. I think this idea should apply whether you’re in the home or out at a restaurant. It makes me roll my eyes to see a restaurant with a diverse menu of foods offer such a limited “kid-friendly” menu to kids – usually consisting of burgers, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese. By restricting kids to such basic options, we’re not even giving them the chance to try new foods and flavours that perhaps they’ve never had the chance to try at home.

Not to mention, the options on kids menus are usually less healthy than some of the other items on the regular menu. Healthy is definitely a relative term when we’re talking about restaurants because all dishes tend to be less nutritious than what we would cook at home, but at least on the regular menu you’ll find vegetables, fish, and whole grains if you’re lucky. Whereas the kids menu, although smaller in portion size, tends to be lacking in vegetables, and high in refined carbohydrates and deep fried dishes. Why are we restricting kids to a limited menu of less healthy options?

I say ditch the kids menu and let children order off the regular menu. It will likely be too much food for their small appetites, but that’s what doggy bags are for. Parents could even split one of their dishes with their kid, as restaurant portions are usually large enough to serve two people anyways!

Let’s stop giving children “kid’s food” and just offer them “food”.

What do you think? Do you agree with restaurants having kids menus?

27 Comments

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27 Responses to Why I don’t agree with kids menus

  1. Due to time constraints, I’ve stopped reading a number of blogs but yours is one that I continue to read because of the quality content- loved this post and I couldn’t agree more! It’s like restaurants have already given up on the idea that kids might be adventurous and willing to try new foods. If they do want to have a separate menu, restaurants should at least offer healthy options e.g. pasta with sauce that contains veggies of some sort or baked chips instead of deep-fried. Even just offering more whole grain options would be a step in the right direction.

  2. TOTALLY AGREE with this post!!! I cringe whenever I look at options on kids’ menus at restaurant – where are the vegetables?? This is what enforces picky eaters!

  3. Love this!!! The irony is, contrasting America to Australia here- I’ve been quite impressed with some places which offer kids menus here which are actually healthier than the adult counterparts (e.g. broccoli and cut up fruit as a side along their sandwich over chips etc)- Australia, on the other hand, have a generic kids menu of fish and chips, burgers, basic pasta (at most restaurants). I’m keen to see how the fast food options fare!

    • Chelsea

      I love it when you actually see fruit and veg on a kids menu! I just wish it was more common. Interesting about the differences between US and Australia though…

  4. I agree with this whole heartedly, Chelsea! When I have children, I plan on having them eat what we eat — no cooking separate meals for them. I know it may be an incredible challenge sometimes, but I really would love to raise eaters that aren’t too picky. I have a friend with a 16 month old who has been feeding him bits of what they eat since when he was old enough to do so, and that baby eats indian food and other interesting flavors like a champ! I love it.

  5. this is such a valid argument! i have not seen anything different but burgers, fries, and nuggets..and it is definitely limiting children from enjoying foods out there..additionally, it really bothers me that ethnic places do the same time..i wouldn’t mind if they did small servings or more kid appropriate menu for ethnic cuisines.

  6. This is an interesting idea that I’ve never really considered, since I don’t have kids. But you’re sooo right – are we fostering bad habits by letting them know they can get their own meal which is usually fried, made with trans fats, and artificial ingredients? Maybe we just need a drive for healthier kids options to introduce them to new things .

    • Chelsea

      Yes you’re so right! Too bad pressure from health authorities rarely makes restaurants even bat an eye. Otherwise they wouldn’t still be serving up entrees with a day’s worth of calories and sodium!

  7. I don’t know how I stumbled upon this, but I can’t agree with you more! Kids menus are never healthy, although recently, I’ve seen a few healthier menus that are majorly over priced. You can’t win. I’m a mom of two little boys so I know this all too well! Nowadays, I just let them order off the regular menu and bribe them with dessert ;)

    • Chelsea

      Isn’t it unfortunate that there tends to be a trade off between healthiness and price? I see that all the time too!

  8. Molly

    I totally agree! Kids menus always drive me nuts. I don’t have kids yet, but someday, if and when I do, I hope to do my best to keep away from them.

  9. I’ll be honest, I have no idea how I feel about kids menus since I’ve never really dealt with them. I guess I’m going to find out rather quickly though. :) I just hope this baby eats her fruits, veggies, and grains. :)

    • Chelsea

      Well since kids tend to look to their parents as food role models, I have no doubt your kid is going to love their fruits and veggies (and cheese!) ;)

  10. I completely agree that Kids menu lack the essential healthy quotient but most children are not welcoming of new flavors. How about you share some recipe to make vegetables more appealing to kids?

    • Chelsea

      I’ve shared a couple! My recipe for broccoli with homemade cheese sauce is always a big hit with kids for sure. :)

  11. I have a 10 month old and the culture I come from we start feeding kids right off our plates (mushed up ofcourse) .They sit with us at lunch/supper time on our table. And fostering this habit from a young age helps us so much. This is probably the best practice I can thank my culture for :)

    • Chelsea

      I love it – that’s how it should be done! And that’s what dietitians are teaching for infant feeding these days too.

  12. YES – kids menus are so full of crap! The only benefit I see is they often appear as cheaper menu options for parents, but restaurants could help in this regard by offering smaller portions of their menu items (small eaters like me could also benefit from this!!).

  13. AGREED!!! Kids menus are often full of crap like processed fries, etc. We always let our kids order off the regular menu and brought the rest home.

  14. While I understand the sentiment (and certainly think we should provide kids with healthier options) a lot of research has shown that kids’ palettes are very different from adults’ because of their sensitivity to some flavors. Part of the reason for very basic things on a kids’ menu is so the palette isn’t overwhelmed with flavors that are biologically meant to trigger disgust (like bitter flavors that are associated with poisons). I do agree there are better options than cheeseburgers, nuggets, and grilled cheese, but I do think there should be considerations for a child’s developing tastes.

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