When Restaurants Offer Healthy Kids' Fare, Children Eat It

News Picture: When Restaurants Offer Healthy Kids' Fare, Children Eat It

FRIDAY, May 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Children ate healthier meals at a restaurant chain after the kids' menu got a makeover with healthy options replacing soda and fries, new research indicates.

"Our study showed that healthier children's menu options were ordered a lot more often when those options were more prevalent and prominent on kids' menus, highlighting the promise of efforts to shift the status quo and make healthier options the new norm," said study lead author Stephanie Anzman-Frasca. She is a research associate at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.

"Given how frequently kids go to restaurants, and evidence that this can be linked with consuming excess calories, offering and promoting healthier menu options could play a role in reversing the childhood obesity epidemic," she added in a university news release.

The Silver Diner, a family restaurant chain in the eastern United States, made changes to its children's menu in April 2012. Healthy options, including strawberries, mixed vegetables and side salads, were automatically included with orders. French fries, soda and lemonade were taken off the kids' menu, though these items were still available if requested.

After the change, almost half of orders from the children's menu were for healthier options compared with just 3 percent before. Also, 70 percent of orders included at least one healthy side option compared with 26 percent before, the investigators found.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 350,000 children's meals and nearly 19,000 individual checks from before and after the changes.

The chain's overall revenue continued to grow despite the healthy menu changes, the study authors pointed out.

The study was published online April 28 in the journal Obesity. The restaurant provided no funding for the study.

-- Randy Dotinga

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SOURCE: Tufts University Friedman School, news release, April 28, 2015