What if kids would eat more fruits and vegetables (FV) as sides on restaurant menus, but restaurants were simply failing to give them the option? A study that asked kids about it suggests this could well be the case.

Researchers set out to examine children’s views about healthier side dishes at restaurants; current side-dish offerings on children’s menus at leading restaurants; and potential calorie reductions when substituting fruit and vegetable side dishes in place of french fries. Two-thirds (n = 1,178) of the American children surveyed, aged 8–18, reported that they would not feel negative about receiving FV sides instead of french fries with kids’ meals. Liking/ taste was the most common reason children gave to explain their attitudes about FV side dishes.

Nearly all restaurants offered at least one FV side dish, but at most restaurants (60% of quick-service restaurants; 70% of full-service restaurants), FV sides were never served by default. On average, substituting a side of FV for fries would cut the calorie content of a kids’ meal by at least
170 calories, the researchers estimated.

Study authors concluded that “promoting creative, appealing FV side dishes can result in healthier, less energy-dense meals for children. Substituting or displacing energy-dense default side dishes with such FV dishes shows promise as part of continued, comprehensive efforts to increase the healthfulness of meals consumed by children in restaurant settings.”

The study was published in the July issue of International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (11:81, doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-81).

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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