They're bloody shocking.
This summer break, my family and I went for a holiday up the east coast of New Zealand, to Picton.
We had a terrific time despite the weather (it rained most days!), and the kids got in plenty of swimming.
But we had a big problem finding good food for the four of us.
Everywhere we went, the "choices" for kids on offer were the same.
- "Chicken nuggets and chips...bowl of chips...hot dog and chips...cheeseburger and chips...chicken wing and chips...fish and chips..."
You getting the picture? Because we sure did. There were no options for healthy kids, let alone healthy vegetarian kids.
Not good enough!
Has the world simply decided that we want an obese future for our children? Because that's what where it looks like we're headed.
While on holidays, our kids pretty much ended up with chips and salad every main meal. There weren't any other options. Even my daughter got sick of chips, and that's something I thought would never happen!
We got around lunches and breakfasts by providing our own in the hotel room - fresh fruit from the supermarket, and weetbix and toast for breakfast, with bananas. So it was manageable.
But the restaurants and cafes should be ashamed of themselves. It's not just New Zealand either - it's the same in Australia, and in the USA - except over there, the serves are even bigger, and they serve the kids soft drink too.
So what should the restaurants be offering?
Here are a few ideas that my kids love. All are quick and easy, and filling:
- Sushi rolls and rice paper rolls with salad or veggies. These are so easy to make, they can be made up en masse and kept cold in the fridge, and they would be popular with adults too.
Different filling options would be possible - vegetarian as well as fish or chicken - and yes, sushi rolls can even easily be made gluten-free.
- Mini pizzas. Mini pizzas are quick and easy, you can serve whatever toppings you like, and they're yummy. They can be made with tortillas as the base, and dairy-free is an easy option too.
- Dip and veggie sticks platter. How easy is this? Some hummus and veggie sticks, and my kids would LOVE you! And healthy and filling too.
- Baked potato with fillings. Baked potatoes cost no more than chips, but are so much more healthy. And kids love them. Fill them with whatever - many options are possible here. But please - hold the huge mounds of sour cream, slimy coleslaw, cheese and other gunk!
- Warrior canoes. My son loves these. They're just celery sticks filled with peanut butter, with sultanas squidged in to the peanut butter. He plays with them, sending them all around the plate (serve them on a big plate). Kids love food like this, with imaginative names. My son is seven, but he hasn't grown out of his "canoes" yet!
- Skyscrapers. These are just squared off club sandwiches, with a host of fillings, piled layer on layer to resemble skyscrapers. Yummy, fast, and healthy!
- Fruit salad. Yum. Every kid loves it. (And every adult too!)
- Grilled fish and steamed baby veggies. A great replacement for the greasy "fish and chips" option that you see everywhere.
Firstly, why not grill the fish? Grilling is quick and so much healthier. And kids are more likely to eat baby veggies, so why not serve them? My experience is that kids like foods to be separate, not all mixed together. Steamed veggies fit the bill on both counts.
- Lamb chop with veggies. Once again, a much healthier alternative to the greasy fare. Replace the chicken nuggets with this, PLEASE!
- Sausage and baby baked potato with steamed veggies. A much healthier replacement for the ubiquitous "hot dog". The sausage could even be - shock! horror! - one with real meat in it!
They're just a few ideas.
Cheap and fast
The food options offered on children's menus is there because it is cheap and fast, and kids like it. And the reason they like it is because our culture is teaching them to like it.
It's our own stupid, stupid fault. Whoever we blame in all this, we cannot, and must not, blame our children. They deserve better. We're giving them bargain basement second-skimmings, when we should be giving them the healthiest food we can provide.
The kids menu should represent the healthiest and best offerings a restaurant can manage, not the poorest.
I'm heartily sick of seeing our children being offered the worst food on the menu. Other parents I know feel the same.
Isn't it time we gave our kids a better deal?
I think so. Or we'll have no-one to blame but ourselves for a growing generation of kids suffering from obesity, diabetes, poor health and low self-esteem.
I don't think that's good enough. What do you think?
Have a lovely day!