On the Menu: Fast Food

11:35 AM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
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On the Menu: Fast Food Changes, One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?

According to Project EAT, a University of Minnesota study, 51 percent of families surveyed reported eating fast food as a family meal at least one to two times a week. Seven percent reported eating fast food for dinner three to four times a week. How do you make the healthy choice the easy choice when dining out in a sea of half pounder Angus burgers topped with double cheese and bacon, golden French fries and creamy frozen ice cream beverages?

Restaurant and Institutions Magazines predicted that creating healthier children's menus would be on many fast food chains "to do" list for 2013, and they were right. This fall, McDonald's partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and made a commitment to modify their menu and use their marketing power to promote healthier behaviors in children and families. So what does this mean, and how do you ensure that it's one-step forward and not two steps back?
· All customers including mom and dad can swap out those golden, crispy, hot French fries for a side salad, fruit or vegetable in value meals.
· Advertisements for the Happy Meal will only promote water, milk and juice as the beverage of choice.
· All Happy Meal box messaging and advertising in general will include well-being messages including good nutrition.
In order for a parent to swap back in the fries and a soda or milkshake they must pause and hopefully consider the health implications. It is also up to the parent to role model the healthier eating behavior they are seeking. There's a great ad campaign right now in Grand Rapids on billboards and the sides of buses that reads "Eat more fruits and veggies and your kids will too. They learn by watching you." You can't expect Johnny to be happy with his milk and apple slices if you're sipping sugar-rich soda and salty, deep fried potatoes.
Panera and Chipotle restaurants were earlier adopters of fresh, healthy options for family meals. Panera serves antibiotic free-range chicken as well as organic kids meals that include the option of squeezable organic yogurt, apples or a French baguette. They eliminated trans fat from their menu even at the expense of dismissing a few favorites because a trans-fat free alternative wasn't available. Chipotle's "Food with Integrity" program supports the use of animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones whenever possible, antibiotic and hormone free milk and a healthy respect for both the environment, the farmer's land, the farmer and how he or she treats their livestock.

Courtesy: Sheryl Lozicki, Saint Mary's Health Care

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