Child-size meals to tackle obesity

MORE restaurants are to offer child-size meals in a bid to tackle Ireland’s childhood obesity levels.

Kids Size Me, a joint initiative by the Nutrition and Health Foundation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland, lets parents know there are child-size portions of adult meals available as an alternative to the standard children’s menu.

Participating restaurants will carry the new Kid Size Me symbol on their menus and over the coming weeks consumers can log onto to see a list of participating venues.

New research commissioned by the NHF shows that 98% of parents want child-size portions of adult meals available. While 80% of parents said they had dined in a restaurant or café where child-size portions of adult meals were available, 58% said they only became aware of the option by asking about it.

The survey, based on 500 participants, found that just over half of parents take their children out to eat once a month, while a further one in five dine out with the family every fortnight. The main reason for bringing children out to dinner are as a treat (72%), special occasion (71%) and to spend time together (52%). Almost eight of 10 children chose their meal themselves and 53% ate from the adult menu.

Parents said that 75% of children normally finished their meal and for those who did not serving size was the biggest problem, with over half saying the portion size was too big.

At the launch of Kids Size Me, dietitian and manager of the NHF, Dr Muireann Cullen, said children should not be eating adult portions at meal times. Appropriate sized portion of meals like pasta, stew and lasagne should be available on the menu for children.

While the initiative was not expected to have a huge impact on childhood obesity, it would contribute in a positive way to improve nutrition and portion size.

“Given Ireland has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world at 10% of children aged five to 12, it is essential to ensure children have access to healthier food options in the appropriate serving size and that this is actively promoted by restaurants,” she said.

RAI president, Brian Fallon, said the association would be issuing the NHF voluntary guidelines to their 600 member restaurants to encourage as many as possible to commit to providing child-size portions of adult meals and actively promote the initiative.

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