Consumers preferences and behaviors are changing. According to Technomic’s 2018 Healthy Eating report, 40% say their definitions of health have changed over the past two years. Some emphasize looking for more balance, rather than trying to eliminate fat or sugar altogether, while others say they look for enriched or whole-grain options more frequently than they used to. These definitions certainly apply to the way consumers order food when dining out, as well as how they grocery shop, but they also apply to the way their kids eat. After all, many children follow their parents’ lead when choosing foods (or are having their foods chosen for them by their parents). So how can restaurants step up to the plate and make the kids’ menu healthier while also satisfying both the parents’ desire for better-for-you options and kids’ desire for tasty food? Here are four ways.
1. Use real ingredients
This might seem like a no-brainer—after all, artificial ingredients aren’t generally lauded as something people seek out. But ingredients such as real cheese instead of chemical flavoring or real milk instead of powdered milk, for instance, are an easy way to upgrade the kids’ menu. According to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report, 57% of consumers say that when they want to order healthy items, they look for claims of natural ingredients on menus. Restaurants should make using real and natural ingredients a priority. From all-natural cheeses and protein options to snacks that are free from artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors, offering these better-for-you foods and beverages on the kids’ menu is a great way to get parents on board with their kids’ orders.
2. Highlight whole grain
Technomic’s Healthy Eating report finds that 63% of consumers say that if available, they would order items with ancient grains. For adults, this means grain bowls and salads, with foods like quinoa, farro and other grains, can be big winners. For kids, though, whole grains might be a bigger seller than ancient grains. Serve sandwiches on whole-grain breads, and make sure sides and snacks are made with whole grains as well, such as fruit-and-grain bars or Goldfish® crackers. However, it’s not enough to simply offer these foods—restaurants should call grains out on the menu as well, so that parents know that these food options have health value.
3. Limit added sugar and salt
Technomic’s Healthy Eating report found that 44% of consumers say they are more concerned about the additives in their food than they were two years ago. Additionally, 80% of consumers say they think food or beverages that are low-sugar are slightly or much healthier, while 79% say the same about food and beverages that are low-sodium. Restaurants should be mindful of how much added sugar and salt are being used in menu items and should also allow for more customization to help diners make choices specific to their needs. For instance, instead of serving sweetened oatmeal or salted French fries, offer the items without the added sweetener and seasonings already included. Serve diners’ dishes with packets of sugar, brown sugar, jam or honey, and let diners know if certain items aren’t salted prior to serving. This way, diners can choose to add their own amount of each.
Additionally, restaurants should consider alternative ingredients for adding flavor instead of sugar and salt. For example, vinegars and citrus juices, as well as other sauces, like mustard, can help take the place of salt, and natural fresh fruit can add delicious sweetness while limiting added sugar.
4. Think plant-based
Restaurants should also work to include more veggies on kids’ menus. Technomic’s Healthy Eating report found that 84% of consumers think food or beverages containing a full serving of vegetables are slightly or much healthier, while 50% think those options are slightly or much tastier. Though young diners might not be as receptive to steamed broccoli as their older counterparts might be, options such as roasted sweet potato wedges, fried zucchini spears or cauliflower mashed potatoes are great options for getting kids interested in eating their veggies. Offering crackers that are colored with plant-based dyes, rather than artificial coloring, is a great option too—these offer a fun option for kids, and they still pack the power of plants.
Appealing to both adults and kids at restaurants can be tricky, but the strategy is easy—make it taste good, and diners will continue to order it. From using real ingredients to offering customizable seasoning levels to incorporating plants and whole grains for a bump in healthfulness, updating the kids’ menu to appeal to health-conscious parents is all about making a few minor tweaks that have a major payoff.
Serve a brand kids know and love
While it’s important to please parents, it’s just as important to delight all guests—even the littlest ones. Goldfish® is the most popular cracker brand among households with kids under 12. With a wide variety of products that contain no artificial flavors or preservatives—including options made with whole grains—Goldfish® can help create fun, delicious and nutritious meals in a number of ways.
As snacks, sides, breakfast items, desserts and more, Goldfish® products provide ample opportunities for creativity. Use crackers or grahams as fun garnishes in soups or to create eye-catching meals. These kid favorites add playfulness for young diners, who can dunk Goldfish® Giant Grahams into yogurt and use Goldfish® crackers to make smiling faces on their plates. By combining nutrition, flavor and fun, Goldfish® can bring extra smiles to kids and parents to keep them coming back for more.
Source: IRI Total U.S. All Outlets, latest 52 weeks through January 2019