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Surprising Science

Healthy Kids Are Good for the Food Industry’s Bottom Line

If children are given healthy options on restaurant menus, they’ll pick healthy options. What’s more, revenue won’t suffer; according to a recent study, it went up.

Sugar is bad for us in the doses and the forms that Americans are mostly eating it in today. The American Heart Association has set a recommended limit, saying men shouldn’t consume more than nine teaspoons daily, and women, no more than six teaspoons. Translate that into the metric grams used on the back of food labels and those teaspoons amount to 37.5 grams and 30 grams. So, drink a can of soda and you’ve reached your daily limit. 

The trouble is sugar is everywhere, which is why the government and researchers have been battling against the food industry to try and regulate the addictive nature of sugary products. As America’s waistlines expand, we’re trying to find new ways to mitigate the problem ourselves through diet and exercise. But for some reason, we’re still getting heavier. The worst demographic to suffer from this growth may be the kids. Just take 94 minutes to watch the documentary Fed Up, and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Just like the tobacco industry before it, the food industry doesn’t want to lose out on its future customers. You have to start addiction young, and the only way to do that is by loading them up with sugar-full foods. Indeed, past research has found that what you eat as a kid becomes a blueprint for your food choices later in life. But restaurants should be embracing healthy food choices, as researchers from ChildObesity180 at Tufts University Friedman School reported today in the journal Obesity that business owners can still turn a profit by serving their youngest clients healthy options.

The researchers had the family restaurant chain Silver Diner alter its kids menu to include healthy options. They kept tabs on the kids’ ordering patterns as well as the restaurant’s sales data. The restaurant had to implement healthier sides to include things like strawberries, mixed vegetables, or side salads. It also had to take French fries and sugary fountain drinks off the menu (though they could be available upon request). The researchers analyzed data from over 350,000 children’s meals ordered.

They found that the overall revenue of the Silver Diner chain continued to grow after the changes. What’s more, lead researcher Stephanie Anzman-Frasca was happy to report:

“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.” 

Anzman-Frasca hopes that this study will encourage other restaurants to change their kids menus as well, adding:

“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.”

Read more at EurekAlert!

Iron Chef Jose Garces understands the struggle parents face when trying to get kids to eat their veggies:

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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