The Evolution of Children’s Menus


July 29, 2019
The Evolution of Children’s Menus

With the increase of busy families going out to eat, many restaurants are now recognizing the need to offer healthier alternatives on kids menus. In a recent article by the Cedar Valley Business Monthly, a couple decided to dine at some of Chicago’s restaurants to evaluate the nutritional value offered on each of their kid’s menus.

Here’s how kids menus are evolving in recent years:

  • More variety in available food options beyond basic chicken tenders and french fries to help picky eaters expand their palate
  • Reduction in caloric content of menu items and removing unhealthy options such as soda from available choices
  • Display of calories on menu
  • Removal of artificial ingredients in menu options
  • Reduction in portion sizes

The reason for these changes can be attributed to the frequency that American’s are now going out to eat. Restaurant spending is up 44% compared to 30 years ago, so proper action must be taken to ensure healthier alternatives are made available to children. Advocates for public health say the reason for poor eating habits among children can be attributed to the marketing behind unhealthy fried finger foods and sugary beverages.



A young couple decided to explore a few of Chicago’s restaurant offerings to evaluate the variety and nutrient dense choices available for children. Here’s a recap of their findings.

  • Restaurants that cater to cultural cuisine have more variety in their menus 
  • Many unhealthy options are offered due to low cost and likeliness of children eating it
  • Smaller portions of healthier alternatives, such as fish or chicken, are not available at lower price points than the adult sized entree
  • Higher preparation and spoilage of fresh ingredients has attributed to the reluctance of restaurants of offering children healthy food
  • More upscale restaurants have begun offering child sized versions of healthier menu favorites

In order to encourage children towards a path of healthy eating, businesses now offer kids a backstage tour of how the food is made to give them a taste of variety in their food choices.

But the issue of childhood obesity has health advocates pushing towards better selection at frequently visited chain restaurants. Childhood obesity is higher than ever- and can contribute to health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and bad self image at such an early age. Due to the rise of this health issue, over 100 chain restaurants have decided to participate in advocacy guidelines requiring the availability of at least one nutritional meal, which is a step in the right direction for the food industry.

The Silver Diner has made a step in the right direction for the restaurant industry by offering the ability to switch entree side items on their menu with healthier alternatives at no additional cost. For example, children can select a fruit or vegetable at the same price as a side of french fries, encouraging children to explore more variety in their food choices.