Why aren't there any healthy options on kid's menus?

Why aren't there any healthy options on kid's menus?

Have you noticed that when you go out the eat, the kids menu is often filled with processed fried foods? There are almost never any healthy options out there. The options are usually calamari and chips, fish and chips, pizza, cheeseburger and chips, pasta. Since when did this become the norm? When did it become acceptable for kids to eat processed, junk and fried foods? Why aren’t there any healthy options on the menu? 

I find this very frustrating. Kids bodies are little and need lots of nourishing foods to grow.  Filling them with processed fried foods does the opposite. Children have the greatest growth span in their whole life. For them to be healthy and to have a good foundation, they need to eat healthy wholefoods. Processed foods are filled with lots of 'non' ingredients - by this I mean ingredients that your grandmother would not recognise. Processed foods are often filled with additives (emulsifiers, colours, flavours, preservatives, stabilisers, thickeners, etc) which can cause havoc with their digestion and gut function. Processed foods do not help build a good foundation. Not only are the food options not good when you go out to eat but they are often fried in vegetable oils which are not stable at high temperatures and contribute to inflammation in the body. Eating processed foods causes numerous health problems including chronic health conditions over time. 

Eating these types of foods is also a contributor to obesity. According to the report: 'A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia 2017' by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (Ref 1), it states:

  • In 2014–15, 1 in 5 (20%) children aged 2–4 were overweight or obese—11% were overweight but not obese, and 9% were obese.

  • About 1 in 4 (27%) children and adolescents aged 5–17 were overweight or obese—20% were overweight but not obese, and 7% were obese. For both children aged 2–4 and 5–17 years, similar proportions of girls and boys were obese.

  • For children aged 5–17, the prevalence of overweight and obesity rose from 21% in 1995 to 25% in 2007–08, then remained relatively stable to 2014–15.

These are scary statistics. This means that at least one quarter of Australian kids are overweight or obese. Kids which are overweight or obese often have a hard time losing this weight and often carry it through to adulthood.

Looking at the statistics for adults from the same report, it states:

  • In 2014–15, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Australian adults were overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has steadily increased, up from 57% in 1995—which has largely been driven by a rise in obesity.

  • The prevalence of severe obesity among Australian adults has almost doubled over this period, from 5% in 1995 to 9% in 2014–15.

  • In 2014–15, 71% of men were overweight or obese, compared with 56% of women. A greater proportion of men (42%) than women (29%) were overweight but not obese, while a similar proportion of men (28%) and women (27%) were obese.

So 2/3rds of Australian adults are overweight or obese!! This is a terrifying statistic and has numerous health complications, including chronic health conditions. This will only get worse unless people start taking action over their health and what they put in their bodies. Being overweight or obese also has a huge impact on the medical system. In 2011-12, it cost the economy $8.6 billion dollars (Ref 1). The cost of medication and medical expenses is only going to increase especially with more children and adults being diagnosed with health conditions, including diabetes type 2.  

There should be more healthy options for kids when eating out and if there isn't, then choose something from the adult menu. Share a healthier meal with your child or if your child cannot finish it, then take the rest home with you to eat later. There is no excuse why you can't do that. Give your child the option. Teach your kids about the importance of eating healthy wholefoods. Teach them 'why' they should be eating unprocessed whole foods and if they are very young, then relate it to something they can understand, e.g. Superman eats his veggies to be strong.

Setting kids up with good food habits should start at a young age. We should be encouraging kids to eat healthy organic wholefoods - meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. We should also lead by example. No child is going to order a healthy meal if their parents are not.  We can't expect our kids to eat healthy if we are busy shoveling fast foods and processed foods down our throats. Becoming conscious of what we are consuming is the first step and then becoming aware of what we are feeding our kids is the next step. Start with whole unprocessed foods. You can't go wrong there. 

This should all start at home. When I was growing up, we didn't eat out as often as people do now. We often ate at home and my mum cooked wholefoods, everything from scratch. She still does. If you start by eating healthier foods at home rather than processed foods, kids taste buds would become used to healthier wholefoods. If on the other hand you serve hot chips, pizza and fast processed foods at home, getting a child to eat a steak and veggies while out at dinner will not be easy. Start off eating healthier options at home and then follow through when you go out to dinner.   

I know people are busy and I often hear the excuse: 'I don't have enough time'. However, if you make your health and that of your kids a priority, then you make the time to prepare food for your family and it no longer is seen as a chore. It is an act of loving and looking after yourself and your family. Put your health and that of your family first. Food is a universal thing - we all have to eat but we need to be aware and conscious of what we are eating. The cheapest and fastest foods are not the best - and even though it may seem like the best option, you end up paying for it later with your health. Feed your kids well. Food has a huge impact on a child’s health as it affects many things including their growth and development, moods, gut function, concentration, and activity levels. 

If once in a while, you decide to let your kids choose whatever they want on the kids menu, then let them enjoy it. But you need to ensure they have a good foundation and are eating healthy wholefoods for at least 80% of the time. If they are eating chips, lollies, fast and processed foods 80% of the time, then they do not have a strong foundation and you are setting them up for a lifetime of chronic diseases. Remember food is medicine. 

For more information on what we should be feeding our kids, then comment below or send me a message. 

Ref: A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia 2017 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/overweight-obesity/a-picture-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-australia/contents/summary).

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