The Top 8 Healthy Kids Menu Ideas for Restaurants

Over the years we’ve watched and reported on the healthful kids meals trend. We’re always happy to utilize our client and restaurant industry-centric news blog platform to help shape healthy eating habits for the next, and we might add notoriously skeptical, generation of diners.

As busy restaurant consultants, we sometimes get lost in the process of creating and sustaining concepts for our wide range of clients. But, what ultimately makes us tick is that many of us are parents and we want to do right by not only our kids, but your little eaters as well.

We’ve stressed the importance of gathering together to dine as a family and emphasizing the notion of a healthy body promotes a healthy mind. We’ve reported on client case studies which found that diners (kids + parents alike) were not only receptive to, but happy with, the removal of soda and fries from their menus and replacing them with fresh fruit juices and smoothies and fun fruit (i.e. dried fruit are a naturally sweet alternative) and crisp, colorful vegetable options.

We’ve highlighted some amazing restaurant and hospitality industry programs aimed at facilitating and supporting efforts to raise awareness and education for healthful food options and nutrition. We love watching campaigns such as National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell and No Kid Hungry and their anti-hunger restaurant fundraiser Dine Out for Kids efforts flourish through their tireless commitment to our children.

We’ve created some kids-centric offerings from sides to entrees for our clients and readers to refer to when ‘healthifying’ their kid’s meal options. From championing oven baked items over fried foods and whole grains over white grains to culinary creativity such as mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes and featuring leaner meats like pork for a flavorful bbq pulled pork sliders, there are endless opportunities to add healthy, nutritious, and appealing menu options.

Giving our kids healthful and delicious culinary choices now will provide them with the tools they’ll need to set them on a path for eating well for the rest of their lives. Now, that’s something worth writing about!

Read on to find out about our past recommendations on developing restaurant menus for kids and celebrating our nation’s kids!

Healthy Kids Menu Options & Ideas

Many of us hold gold memberships in the ‘busy parents club,’ we know just how especially hectic this time of year can be.

And as food & beverage consultants, we also know that as errands and carpools are run, families can often find solace in gathering and enjoying a casual meal together at a local restaurant.

So, each year we remain mindful that a healthy body promotes a healthy mind and aim to post a back to school piece: celebrating our nation’s kids, our support of programs we’re passionate about such as Kids LiveWell + No Kid Hungry, and offering fresh, healthy kids meal options & ideas. Here are some of our team’s selections for this back to school season.

Remove Soda & Fries From Your Kids Menu. It’s ok!

Case in point: VSAG client, Silver Diner, has successfully removed soda & fries from their kids’ menu. Yup, by offering these items by request only and replacing them with healthy entrée side/beverage options such as fruits/vegetables and milk/juice has resulted in huge industry, parent, and (yes!) even kids’ accolades.

Fun Kids Meal Options & Ideas.

  • Apple slices have been a popular healthy kids add-on for some time. Time for a facelift: chop and add to shredded chicken/cheese or turkey/cheese wraps and crepes; mix-in with shredded pickled cabbage, creating a tasty-tart apple slaw; dried apples are a sweet, alternative treat; replace ginger ale with organic apple cider for a new twist on a classic Shirley Temple.
  • Get creative: serve spaghetti squash over traditional white pastas, zucchini-based muffins, mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, add pumpkin puree into meat sauce, and the like.
  • Presentation is everything: think fun skewers, interestingly carved fruit/veggies, vibrant
    arrays that jump off the plate, colorful smoothies they’ll want for dessert packed with freshly made ice cream + spinach, bananas, berries, even kale!
  • For main dishes, think outside of the traditional chicken nugget box and offer chicken satay skewers with a flavorful dipping sauce
  • Instead of a beef burger try leaner meats such as pulled pork for sliders
  • For super side dishes try whole grain rice pilaf, steamed vegetables and mixed fruit salad
  • For something that’s a perfect start for experimenting with new ingredients, try chopped kale salad with apples and lemon vinaigrette, or quinoa with grilled seasonal vegetables
  • For beverages, skip the soda and offer low-fat milk/chocolate milk, flavored sparkling water or fresh fruit smoothies housed in fun, take-home containers

What about desserts? It’s easy to add delicious desserts to your kids’ menu and still feel good about it. The goal here: Don’t deny, but don’t ‘super-size.’ Maybe it‘s dark chocolate fondue with fun dippers like sliced pineapple, mango or green apples, low-fat granola bar bites or mini marshmallows, or try an all-natural, one scoop ice cream sundae with sliced bananas, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, a dollop of freshly made whip cream topped with a raspberry coulis.

Promote Your Restaurant AND Healthy Eating to Kids & Their Families.

In all this culinary creativity, don’t put your restaurant business plan on the backburner. Aim to devise and implement marketing-giveback programs to shine light upon not only the importance of kids and healthy eating, but also your establishment. For example, share your chef’s know-how by volunteering demos at school lunchtimes, community-based charity functions and/or local religious fairs.

For more information on the Let’s Move! campaign or becoming a part of the Kids LiveWell initiative go to Lets Move! or Kids LiveWell.