Restaurants should offer healthier menus for children, says Vicki Edgson, co-presenter of Five's Diet Doctor and nutritionist at recipe and menu planning website ChewChew
Today, even so-called dedicated food providers are floundering when it comes to knowing how and what to feed our kids. This comes not only from a lack of knowledge about nutritional necessities, but also a misplaced belief that kids like only processed foods, which is simply not the case.
The fact is that the basic principles of healthy eating are not being properly considered. Sugar sneaks into places you wouldn't expect, and our children's taste-buds become addicted to that sugary taste from an early age.
Restaurants obviously want to provide food that children will eat happily, but it needn't be riddled with sugar and saturated fat. Children will eat vegetables and particularly fruits if they are presented in a fresh and interesting way.
The Soil Association recently discovered that some restaurants had eight teaspoons of added sugar to their meals, almost the average recommended amount for an entire day. This is just not necessary. Simply by making their own in-house products, restaurants can cut out much of these sugars.
And traditional "junk foods" can be given a twist. Sweet potato cut into strips and shallow-fried in olive oil is a tasty change from frozen chips real fish fingers rolled in real breadcrumbs even home-made ketchup needn't be a time-consuming chore.
Some restaurants fail to see children as customers with palates, and more as playthings to be kept happy. But don't forget, they will be consumers and restaurant critics of the future.
Parents are also becoming much more concerned and aware. Through recent healthy school meals projects and the "five-a-day" campaign, parents are now a lot better educated about what constitutes a healthy meal - and this will surely have a knock-on effect in restaurants that don't feature fruit or vegetables on their menus.
Restaurants need to take a tip from schools and get a healthy kick back into their menus. I challenge them to dump the deep-fat fryer and sugar lumps, and find fast and easy options that will get all customers smiling - both big and small.
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