Restaurant Chain Finds Healthier Default Kids’ Menu Options Work


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With big name fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s and Subway taking sodas off their kids’ menu and replacing them with healthier default drinks, folks are wondering: will kids eat and drink the new healthy items or still long for fries and soda?


One restaurant chain with locations throughout Virginia and Maryland is finding that kids don’t miss unhealthy menu items and are instead digging-in to the restaurant’s revamped, healthier kids’ menu.

Silver Diner fast-casual restaurants completely overhauled their kids’ menu in 2012, swapping greasy burgers and fries for healthy and unique options, like teriyaki salmon and quinoa pancakes. While they still serve some classic kid favorites like grilled cheeses and chicken tenders, the chain took fries and sodas off the kids’ menu (though customers can still request those items), and made healthy side items like salads and strawberries the default options.

According to NPR, researchers with ChildObesity180, at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition, got wind of the changes at Silver Diner and wanted to track the outcome. So they tracked what families ordered at all of Silver Diner’s locations during the six months before and after the kids’ menu changed — some 350,000 children’s meals in all. The results were published in late April 2015 in the journal Obesity.

Before the changes, only about 3% of meals ordered off the children’s menu qualified as healthy — meaning they met the nutritional standards set by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids Live Well program. After the menu revamp, 46% of meals ordered met that standard.

Other research shows, according to ChildObesity180, that people tend to go with the default options. So if strawberries are the default side, most kids (and their parents) won’t go out of their way to change that.

The successes at Silver Diner might encourage similar restaurants to makeover their kids’ menu—an idea that is being proven to be good for health and for business.

Read more about Silver Diner and the study here.

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