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Creating Healthy Kids Meals

March 4, 2014

Creating Healthy Kids Meals
By Claire Willis
(Director of Culinary Nutritionists at MenuTrinfo

The National Restaurant Association has posted their predictions for the top dining trends of 2014. In the top five is “Healthier Kids Meals.” This may seem simple enough: take away the mac and cheese and fried chicken nuggets, replace it with a plate of veggies and whole grains. But regardless of how nutritious a dish is, it’s wasted if the child won’t eat it. You’ll find much more success if you don’t take away all of their old favorites, but rather add health-boosting elements where you can. Here are some ways to crank up the nutrition while still pleasing those little palates:

  • Make macaroni and cheese with whole grain pasta, and just add enough cheese sauce to coat the noodles. You’ll add fiber along with a host of vitamins and minerals, and keeping the cheese sauce to a minimum will cut calories, fat and sodium.
  • Kids love to dip! While French fries and chicken nuggets dunked in ketchup might be the classic favorite, there are many other ways to mimic it. Try veggies with light ranch, apple slices with reduced-sugar caramel sauce, grilled chicken skewers with low-sodium teriyaki sauce, or fruit skewers with a yogurt and honey dip.
  • Let the child customize their meal. I watched in amazement the other day as a little girl at a sandwich restaurant excitedly picked a whole slew of vegetables for her sandwich, only refusing to get those that her mother suggested. By offering dishes like build-your-own pizza or stir fry, you can let the child pick which vegetables to add. You’d be surprised how they suddenly love green peppers because they were the ones who picked it (Kid Logic 101).
  • Sugary drinks can ruin what would otherwise be a healthy meal. Many big-name fast food restaurants have started offering reduced-fat or skim milk as the default beverage, and only serving soda if it’s requested. Try to steer away from flavored milks, however, as they can pack as much sugar as soda.

The demand for healthier kids’ meals is going nowhere but up. Trying out some new options on the kids menu can be a great way to ensure that the next time the parents ask their kids where they want to have dinner, they shout your restaurant’s name!

Our team of nutritional experts will help you develop safe, healthy menu items for your restaurant needs please visit our website or call 888.767.MENU (6368) and see how we can help.