Supersized Meals Mean Supersized Keiki

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - August 04, 2010
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A perfectly portioned kids’ meal

I’m going to remember this summer as the one where my family was finally able to eat out in restaurants without baby chairs, bibs and bowls of saimin hitting the floor.

Yes, my boys are growing up. And, at 5 and 7, they are beginning to learn about the world of food and wine.

It’s a coming of age, in a way, allowing your children to order their own food and be respectful of restaurant staff. As well as learning to be polite, kids pick up lots of good habits in a restaurant: They see people interacting in a social environment, they understand the need for adults to relax, communicate socially and enjoy each other’s company, and they observe people working hard for a living.

But there’s another thing that kids observe when they’re in a restaurant: People eating too much food.

For all the joy that dining out with our children brings, I have to admit that I bite my tongue on occasion as gargantuan portions of food arrive for them from the keiki menu. Even if they manage to navigate a fairly healthy entrée, I know that a giant dessert is bound to be on the way. Couple that with a soda or a cup or two of fruit punch, and kids are taking in way too many calories when they eat out.


It’s no secret that some of our children are grossly overweight. As we worry about the increase of childhood diabetes in Hawaii and the health risks associated with obesity, we continue to pile on the fries, scoop up the mac salad and expect large portions when we eat out. Our children emulate our eating habits. If you think that huge plates equal good value, then they will too.

So there’s a big dilemma locally for restaurants that feel obligated to offer large portions to meet their customers expectation of “good value.” Sometimes the portions given to children are so huge they could easily feed two small people.

But restaurants are not in the business of regulating food portions. That’s not their job, just like it’s not their job to monitor your fat intake or make sure you don’t spill hot coffee on your thighs. We, the customers, have to be responsible for what we eat - and for what we want.

I’m wondering if a simple answer to both the restaurant dilemma of pleasing customers and the parental dilemma of having to act like “food police” is to offer mini-portion kids’ meals. Restaurants can still offer the regular “value” kids meals, but parents are able to make a choice of the size of meal that comes to the table. We can mini plate our adult meals at many casual restaurants. Can’t we choose to mini plate our kids’ meals?

Is there anything wrong in teaching our kids the proper size of a portion of food, or do we want them to supersize themselves out of existence?

It’s not up to chefs. It’s not up to restaurants. It’s up to us.

Don’t you think?

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