Menus with child-friendly graphics, cutting soft drinks from meal deals and awards for the best family eateries are among recommendations being made today to improve the quality of kids’ menus.
The initial report from the Premier’s Healthy Kids Menu Taskforce, formed earlier this year, will be unveiled at a function this morning.
The taskforce, which includes representatives from health, the hospitality industry and parents, was chaired by Leesa Vlahos, Parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Health, and has collaborated with organisations including the Heart Foundation, Flinders University and SAHMRI.
Among the recommendations are:
MORE pictures and graphics that make it easier for children to choose a dish.
CUTTING soft drinks and making water the standard choice with meals.
EDUCATION and training for chefs in preparing healthier options.
A VOLUNTARY code of practice that would make SA the benchmark state for supporting healthy eating options for children.
The code would include minimum and optimum standards for a menu, and a requirement that all government venues complied with the optimum standard in three years.
This would allow “a brand developed around the code that enables consumers to identify if their chosen venue is a signatory”.
The report recognises that any change needs to be in partnership with the restaurant and hotel industry and must be based on a strong business case including branding and promotion, and an increase in return customers.
The findings are based in part on research with families and business to identify why children don’t eat healthy food when dining out.
“Parents make the choice about a venue but kids make the choice of food because parents don’t want a fight when they sit down,” Ms Vlahos said.
“Children will make really innovative choices themselves if they are allowed the freedom to do so. They are choosing sushi, or broccoli spears with a dipping plate, rather than just having hamburger and chips. They really like food they can handle like cold rolls or sushi ... rather than using a knife and fork.”
Ms Vlahos said innovative menu design, with pictures and graphic, or even ordering on an iPad, allowed children to engage more and be adventurous.
She said that families wanted more flexibility in what they ordered rather than being dictated to by package deals at certain price points.
“We are trying to decouple sugar beverages from the menu choice so you don’t automatically get the ice cream and soft drink with a meal,” she said.
Ms Vlahos said the taskforce would be given resources to continue its work, which would include the establishment of an online portal as a “one-stop shop for industry and families who wanted extra information”.
Restaurants and other eateries would be able to apply for inclusion in a listing of healthy kids menus on the site.
“It will help to make it attractive to be recognised as a family friendly, healthy eating space,” Ms Vlahos said. “It’s something to aim for rather than thinking of kids as a pain in the butt you don’t want around.”
As featured in The Advertiser on Wednesday, 16 December 2015.