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You Want Fries With That?

Beyond French Fries - simple ways restaurants can incorporate healthier choices for children.

Being quite outgoing and sociable, I love social media.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn – you name it, I know it.

I remember the month I joined Facebook in 2008.  As friend requests were sent and received, I remember the joyful feeling of being able to socialize with friends and family members without having to plan a reunion or attend an event.  At the time, I was a stay-at-home-mom, and Facebook was a connector for my group of friends very early.

I recently posed a question to our Facebook fan page and received hundreds of responses to one simple question:

If you could suggest a side item for restaurants to offer with their children’s meals, what would it be? 

Below is just a sampling of the responses:

Grapes, Salad, Baked Potato, Baked Sweet Potato Fries, Honey Glazed Carrot Sticks, Steamed Vegetables, Black Beans, Celery Sticks & Peanut Butter, Pretzels & Nutella, Yogurt, Green Beans, Whole Grain Pasta Salad, Cup of Soup, Broccoli, Baked Sweet Potato, Strawberries, Blueberries, Apples, Pineapples, Unsweetened Applesauce, Graham Crackers, Mandarin Oranges, Whole Grain Mac & Cheese, Banana, Mixed Nuts, Brown Rice, Couscous, Pickles, Veggie Straws, Cucumber Slices, String Cheese, Apples Cut Like Fries

The bottom line is this:  Fried Chicken Fingers and Fried Potatoes are not good for kids. Or anyone for that matter.  And in offering a limited menu for children with unhealthy choices, you are excluding families that may want to dine out at your restaurant but do not because of the children’s menu.   Families want choices – Chicken Fingers/Fries, Pizza, Hot Dog are quickly becoming second & third choices.  My 7 year old knows these are unhealthy choices. She chooses fruit over French fries and enjoys a salad over chips.   It’s all about choice. (I'm still working on her brother)

The list above was generated in just a couple of hours on Facebook.  Imagine what restaurants could cook up if they put just a little effort in developing a delicious, healthy kids’ menu that offered choices. The effort is certainly made for the adult menu – why not make mini versions of a few of the adult meals?

The National Restaurant Association recently launched the Kids LiveWell program in conjunction with Healthy Dining. The Kids LiveWell program features restaurants that offer healthy choices on their kids’ menus.  Having these choices available and teaching our children how to make healthy choices when eating will encourage a lifestyle of better health for our kids.  Who can say no to that?

Need help?  Contact the National Restaurant Association about becoming a Kids LiveWell participant.  Check out our Pinterest boards for ideas on how to make your children’s meals healthy and exciting!  And will have kids begging to go back to YOUR restaurant!  Couple that with a stand-alone kids' special - and you've got a winning combination for families that WANT to dine out economically and healthfully.

Jennifer Bilbro is the Founder of OutToEatWithKids.com, an online resource and mobile application designed to help families search for economical & healthy children’s meals. Visit OutToEatWithKids.com for more information. Find us on Facebook. Twitter, and Pinterest.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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