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Kids Menus - Healthful Tips

Q:

The folks over at Good Housekeeping have some strong feelings on what fast food operators should be feeding kids these days.

A:

Look at the salt, fat, and calorie count of what’s served up at many fast food restaurants and it could make you lose your appetite. It’s a special concern for kids’ meals. You’d think a child-sized meal should include child-sized calories, but the Good Housekeeping Research Institute found that fast food restaurants pack way too many calories in their children’s meals. “They really push the fries, the shakes, the sodas,” said Samantha Cassetty, the nutrition director at Good Housekeeping Research Institute. “What you are not getting here is enough produce or any low fat dairy.”

With obesity in children at an all-time high, fast food businesses are revising their menus to include healthier options, and you can too. Fries are always a kid’s favorite. One suggestion that keeps these on the menu but makes them healthier is to cut the potato portion costs but fill out the plate by adding nutritious dipping sauces such as fresh tomato salsa. Another crowd favorite, especially in casual dining situations, is a baked potato skin with smaller quantities of fillings. These become a sharable appetizer or meal when combined with a salad and split among kids or adults. Check out the photo attached (Attach Steve Welsh standard potato skins). These can also be customized to be ethnically compatible with themed restaurants, filled with black beans, corn and shredded pork for Mexican or Pizza toppings (including a veggie version with olives, tomatoes).

Mashed potatoes don’t have to be laden with gravy or butter, these can be spiced up with freshly chopped herbs, blended with mild cheeses (again watch the portioning quantities) and served with a vegetable side dish.

Have you ever seen how popular a baked potato bar is at elementary and middle schools? Kids add all kinds of ingredients, using the potato as a neutral palate to hold the toppings. The size of the potato (and the plate or bowl it is placed in) can help limit the portions. Use a smaller 90 count or even take your regular baked potatoes and slice down the middle. Here is a guide for creating your own version of a baked potato bar (potato bar wall chart inserted link here). The same thing can be done with mashed potatoes, but you can also have flavored oils to drizzle on the top.

If you have a kid’s menu special that includes potatoes send it on to me!