Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Restaurant scheme to tackle obesity in children with smaller portions

CONOR POPE, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

THE CHICKEN nuggets and chips combination so beloved of Irish children may become a thing of the past if a restaurant initiative aimed at tackling childhood obesity takes off.

Thousands of restaurants are to begin offering child-friendly portions of their adult menus alongside their children’s menus as part of a joint campaign announced yesterday by the Nutrition and Health Foundation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

The “Kids Size Me” scheme being rolled out by the group’s 6,000 members is looking to provide healthier options for children.

President of the association Brian Fallon said it would also give members who took part “huge marketing material” at a time when many were struggling to keep their doors open.

Participating restaurants will offer children access to healthier food options by making smaller portions of adult meals available as an alternative to the standard children’s menus. They will carry the new “Kids Size Me” symbol.

Over the coming weeks, consumers will be able to check which restaurants are participating on the website.

Dietician and foundation manager Dr Muireann Cullen said Ireland had one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world and one in four Irish children was overweight or obese.

She said it was “essential to ensure children have access to healthier food options in the appropriate serving size and that this is actively promoted by restaurants”.

Research commissioned by the foundation found there was an overwhelming demand for child-size portions of adult meals, with 98 per cent of parents wanting the option of ordering smaller portions off adult menus for their children.

It found that while 80 per cent of restaurants allowed diners to do this, nearly two-thirds did not publicise the fact.

The survey found 78 per cent of children chose their meal themselves with 53 per cent ordering of the adult menu.

“It is clear that the demand is out there and it is now time for restaurants to act on that demand,” said Mr Fallon, one of the owners of Fallon Byrne on Dublin’s Exchequer Street.

“It is about a mindset and about changing attitudes.”

He said his restaurant would be changing its menus to reflect it was part of the new campaign.

He did not believe restaurants would replace their children’s menus entirely but would use the new portion options as “a bolt-on to what already exists, which will start a process of getting people to think about the healthier options”.

He stressed that while the campaign would not cost restaurants money, it would still offer parents better value for money.

The foundation survey found 55 per cent of parents thought a children’s meal costing between €5 and €7.50 was value for money, while a third thought the price ceiling could reach €10 and still represent good value.

52% of children eat out once a monthLink

98% of parents want their children to have child-sized portions of adult meals

73% of children chose their own meals

56% would pay €7.51-€10 for a portion for a 10-12-year-old.

Based on an NHF survey of 500 parents.


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