Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unhappy Meals

Last year, parents in Park Slope were outraged when a new ‘family friendly’ restaurant opened without including a children’s menu.

Dr. Rallie McAllister would be pleased. Dr. McAllister, author of Healthy Lunchbox and The Mommy MD Guide, urges parents to avoid kids’ meals, though when you are traveling, it isn’t always so easy. The fried foods, sugar and salt make these terrible choices.

My own bugaboo is when the kid’s meal vegetarian option is spaghetti, served with French fries. If we don’t eat offer a few fresh veggies – broccoli and dip, carrots, grape tomatoes – how will we get kids to choose healthy food on their own?

San Francisco, though makes it easy to eat healthy. Even at the interactive Exploratorium science museum, you can get a sandwich filled with local, sustainable produce. Compare this to the Boston Children’s Museum, which has a McDonald’s on-site. Or to hospitals around the country that have McDonald’s in the building.

San Francisco also recently banned promotional toy giveaways with children’s meals filled with too many calories and too much salt and saturated fat.
Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity just released a study that says “the average kids’ meal contains 616 calories, which may meet the needs of older, more active children, but provides too many calories for most younger children. If your child is 2-5 years old, she required 410 calories at lunch or dinner, or a third less.

And if you examine the study carefully, you see that the lower calorie counts come when you choose low fat plain milk for your child. If you let him get a soda or chocolate milk, or add cheese to a burger, the calorie count is much higher.

Dr. McAllister suggests parents let their kids eat some of their own meal, noting that restaurant portions are often so large that adults don’t need to finish them. In fact, last night, I had an excellent barley and wild mushroom risotto at Alchemy and brought more than half of it home. My daughter, after two hours of soccer, ate the remainder. We were both stuffed.

And not a bit of fried food passed our lips.


  1. I think that healthy eating habits start at a young age and its a parents responsibility to make sure the foods their kids eat has nutritional value. taking the toy out of kids meals makes it easier, for parents, i remember as a kid wanting to eat at mickey d's just so i could collect the newest Barbie.

    I pack my kids lunch and snacks and found some fun outside the box sandwiches from Red Tricycle

  2. Great stuff. One of my faves: -Goat cheese and roasted beets

  3. Great article! I'm Dr. McAllister's coauthor, and I'm hoping, can you contact me off line ( I'd like to ask you a question and tell you about an opportunity to profile you on our website! Jennifer Reich