Title

Doing Away With Kids' Menus

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

Whenever this phrase is used, it focuses on the hard, noisy life of the wheel. "If you need something, let that wish be known," is the sentiment. But there's another party involved in the idiom: The person hearing the squeak. "If there's an annoying thing wreaking havoc on your ears, fix it," is the unexplored sentiment. And folks, the cries of a child are way more annoying than the squeaks of a wheel.

Story continues below

The point is: Parenting is hard work. You're forced to be a puppeteer/lifeguard all hours of the day, save the few moments of precious sleep. Any way to make the task easier is valued and celebrated. So, if your child is complaining about not wanting to eat salad or greens or other items that their taste buds don't respond well to, it's just so easy to either nuke up something else, or flip the menu to the kids section.

According to a new study, only 71 percent of five-year-olds eat the same foods as their parents. The other 29 percent of kids in Scotland are eating their own specially-created meals. And while the data of the study doesn't go into specifics regarding what these "kids meals" consist of, it's hard not to guess.

Foods from the dreaded "kids menu."

If you're at a restaurant, the "kids' options" are deep-fried and constructed to allow maximum ketchup collection. In grocery stores, they're the cartons of sugar and fat with cartoons on the boxes. Essentially, they're from the same family of food: Fish sticks, tater tots, fries, burgers, pizza, pasta and tomato sauce, nuggets of all variety, vanilla ice cream. And, obviously, those options aren't very healthy.

The irony of it all is that "kids menus" were first created to actually help kids. Slate has an interesting look at the history of the kids' menu, which began at the turn of the 19th century with recommendations from pediatrician Emmett Holt. He instructed that children should not be given:

Restaurants took his advice, and provided parents with entire sections their kids could order from. While there may be quite a few qualms now with those recommendations, the items offered were plenty better than the current state of menus. Things apparently started to shift in 1946, when new pediatrician head honcho Benjamin Spock kind of said, "you know, it's okay if your kids eat some of that." But instead of removing the kids section from the menus, all the lack of restrictions did was allow restaurants to cram it with the least-expensive items they could find. With the rise of processed foods, those items got cheaper (and less healthy), and that's where we're at today.

The solution, then, is clear: Avoid kids' menus/foods. Have your kids eat the same thing you're eating. If kids don't like it the first few times, their taste buds will adapt. The wheel may be squeaking, but don't rush to the oil. It'll work itself out.

Unless, of course, you're not the best of role models. As one commenter put it:

There's a way restaurants can help, too. Rather than offering "kids' sections" that contain completely different items, strike that entirely from the menu. If you want to replace it with something, offer up smaller "kids portions" for a fraction of the price. And then, when you get acclaim from dietitians and parents about your ingenuity, you don't even have to tell them that the exact same idea was used over 100 years ago in Paris.

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading