Combating unhealthy eating

While a kid may still opt for a soda over a glass of water, for instance, when given the option, restaurants are questioning the implications of removing temptation. Is it up to the restaurants to remove advertisements for sugar-filled treats, or is it the responsibility of the parents to encourage healthier eating habits with their children separately?

Last year, California restaurants were banned from offering soda as a standard component of their kid’s meals. Instead of soda, restaurants could offer plain water, sparkling water, flavoured water, milk, or a non-dairy milk substitute. However, upon request, a soda could be provided. This move was designed to implement a more direct approach to steering kids away from sugary drinks. Earlier this year, the City Council of New York implemented a law that required chain restaurants in the city to display warning notices if menu items were high in added sugars – the first city in the US to take such a step.

These initiatives that look at removing temptation is perhaps the first step to get the ball rolling for a healthier experience when eating out. While the option is still there, removing it from the forefront of consumers’ minds means that there is a more direct route to sugary-alternatives—if consumers aren’t offered soda outright, will they be happy with accepting a substitute?

While restaurants and cafés may be reluctant to change their kids' menus to offer better options, research indicates that change might be a good thing—for business and health. Although changing menus to fresher, and healthier options may mean higher amounts of wastages, logistical changes, and increased preparation times, Tufts University said that the changes would benefit all. “After the Silver Diner restaurant chain changed its kids’ menu in 2012 to include healthy sides as the default, the share of kids’ meals that included a healthy side increased to 70 percent from 26 percent, even though they could substitute French fries at no additional cost. Revenue, meanwhile, continued to grow and exceeded comparable restaurants,” said Christina Economos, a Tufts researcher.

Switching menus towards healthier options may not initially sound like something that will be well received. However, in general, as trends towards healthy eating become more mainstream, adults are appreciative of the offerings.