How to Make Kids’ Menus Healthier

As a restaurant owner, you’ve likely made strides in offering healthy menu items to customers, consciously incorporating fresh, better-for-you dining options into your menu. Now that you’ve catered to adult diners looking to make healthier decisions, it’s time to focus on your littlest customers –the kids – if you haven’t done so already.

The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” culinary forecast lists “healthful kids’ meals” as a top food trend for 2017. But when kids’ meals often consist of chicken nuggets, pizza and mac n’ cheese, how can you serve healthy options to potentially picky diners?

Focus on offering healthier side options

Just because a child diner orders a burger doesn’t mean it needs to come with fries on the side. In fact, getting rid of salty and sweet side options is a great way to make kids’ meals healthier. That hamburger meal can easily be made more nutritious with a fruit cup. Better yet, consider offering the option of switching a traditional burger for either a turkey or veggie burger.

As another option, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich goes great with carrot sticks. With better sides, you will up the health factor of kids’ meals, without completely changing the food kids are eating.

Upgrade traditional meals with healthier ingredients

If you’re wary of completely changing your menu options, try ingredient swapping. Instead of regular pasta, use a whole-grain option. If a meal comes with deep-fried chicken tenders, try grilling or lightly frying them. You’ll still be serving popular options, just slightly upgrading them to be more nutritious.

Offer incentive to kids who make healthy choices

Small incentives can go a long way. Take a page from the fast-food handbook and offer a prize or treat to young diners who make health-conscious options. For instance, if they order vegetables as a side, you can include a small toy with the meal.

You can also encourage young diners to come back for more by offering a collection of stickers or stamps each time they make a healthy choice. After the tenth stamp, for example, the next meal will be on the house. The chance of a reward at the end of a meal means kids are more likely to choose greens over grease.

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