It has been an ongoing frustration for us to get Vivian to eat. It’s more than the fact that she’s at an age where she likes her cookies and her lollipops; she just seems to have an efficient metabolism that gets her through the day with little more than a few bites of the four major food groups. Dinners can sometimes become fraught, and more than once Erin and I have been very upset at the amount of food left on Vivian’s plate which goes to waste.
But I cannot help but wonder if our perception of how much food she should eat has been tainted by the amount of food restaurants typically serve kids. A lot has been written about Canada and America’s obesity problem, and a lot of the blame for that problem has been laid at the fast food industry’s door. But our own “clean your plate” attitudes at non-fast-food restaurants could be contributors of that problem.
Consider the kids’ menu. Just today, Erin and I took the kids out for breakfast and Vivian received a plate of pancakes off of the kids’ menu, along with two sausages and some scrambled eggs. The plate was practically indistinguishable from an adult plate, and the food filled it utterly. Vivian was presented with three adult portioned pancakes, at least three times as thick and three times the diameter of the pancakes I cook up at home. Of course Vivian couldn’t finish what she was served. Personally, I thought she did remarkably well, consuming both sausages and a bit of egg as well as a few bites of pancake, but she left a mountain of food behind.
Part of the problem is that the kids’ menus are served for kids up to and including the ages of ten or twelve, and thus portion sizes are measured based on what these individuals — who are about to engage in their first pubescent growth spurts — can consume. So of course that’s way more food than a typical three-year-old should be expected to even look at, at any given day.
This makes little sense to me. It can’t be good for the environment to throw so much food away. It can’t be good for a business’ bottom line to have to dispose of so much food. And it certainly can’t be good for future waist lines as parents are reasonably tempted to force their kids to eat more food than they need to in order to ‘clean their plates’.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: why aren’t I just feeding the kids at home where the portions are under my control. And we do do this, although perhaps not as much as we would like. But what is the disincentive against restaurants offering a two-tier kids menu, with a new level of items sized in portions appropriate for, say, five-year-olds? The prices could be adjusted accordingly to make restaurant visits less pressing on a family’s wallet, but still be profitable enough for a restaurant to make money while wasting less food.
It would fray fewer tempers at restaurants, and possibly promote a healthier attitude towards food at a younger age.