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Child Size Portions of Adult Meals in Irish Restaurants to Tackle Childhood Obesity

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Child Size Portions of Adult Meals in Irish Restaurants to Tackle Childhood Obesity

Child Size Portions of Adult Meals in Irish Restaurants to Tackle Childhood Obesity
August 05
15:32 2011

Provision of child size portions of adult meals in restaurants is an important step forward in tackling Ireland’s childhood obesity levels and is at the heart of a new joint initiative called ‘Kids Size Me’ from the Nutrition & Health Foundation (NHF) and the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI).

 

The initiative aims to ensure children have access to healthier food options when dining out by making child size portions of adult meals available as an alternative to ordering from the standard children’s menu. Participating restaurants will carry the new ‘Kids Size Me’ symbol on their menus and over the coming weeks consumers can log on to www.wheretoeat.ie to see a list of participating venues.

 

New research entitled ‘Eating Out With Children’, commissioned by the NHF, indicates the scale of demand for child size portions of adult meals with 98% of parents surveyed supporting the move. 80% of parents state they have dined in a restaurant or cafe where child size portions of adult meals were available in addition to the standard children’s menu. However, 3 out of 5 (58%) of those surveyed only became aware of this option by requesting it from restaurant staff as the offering was not advertised.

 

Dr Muireann Cullen, dietitian and manager of the Nutrition & Health Foundation, comments: “Portion size affects energy intake in children from as young as 5 years of age. The balance between energy in and energy out is just as important for children as for adults and children simply should not be consuming adult portions at meal times. GivenIrelandhas one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world at 10% of children aged 5-12, it is essential to ensure children have access to healthier food options in the appropriate serving size and that this is actively promoted by restaurants. We are delighted to partner with the RAI to devise a set of voluntary guidelines that will be circulated to restaurant chefs and owners nationwide to assist them deliver good value, healthier menu options for children.”

 

Despite the economic downturn, half of parents (52%) surveyed take children out to eat once per month while a further 1 in 5 (18%) dine out with children every fortnight. The main reasons cited for bringing children out to dinner are as a treat (72%), for a special occasion (71%) and to spend time together (52%).

 

Value for money’ (85%), ‘taste of food’ (85%) and ‘a nicely varied children’s menu’ (72%) are the factors that most influence parents choice of restaurant/cafe while the least influential factors are the provision of free toys with children’s meals (8%) and the availability of take home boxes (18%).

 

In terms of portion sizes and most popular food choices, the following trends were identified;

* 78% of all children chose their meal themselves

* 53% of children ate from the adult menu

* Of those eating from the adult menu, half portions of meat dishes and pasta dishes were most popular

* For those eating from the children’s menu, pasta dishes were most popular followed by chicken nuggets and chips.

 

When asked what should feature on a children’s menu, a significant 88% of parents stated child size portions of adult meals, followed by pasta dishes (80%), meat dishes such as roast chicken, shepherd’s pie while 69% opted for a clearly marked healthy option.

 

Parents stated that 75% of children normally finished their meal. For children that did not finish their meal, serving size was the biggest influencing factor with over half (52%) stating ‘the portion size is too big’.

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