The latest object of federal scrutiny is how children order food at restaurants. That is the focus of a new federal study that will look at ways to introduce more healthy kids' menus at restaurants to change the "ordering behavior of children." The study will be conducted by San Diego State University, thanks to a grant of $224,250 from the National Institutes of Health. "The study, I think, is going to be a good one," says Kristi King, clinical dietician with Texas Children's Hospital. "It's going to look at the ordering behaviors of children as well as restaurants, and what (the restaurants) can actually provide." The study's authors say it will examine ordering behaviors of children at 12 restaurants, then develop and promote more healthy children's menus to see if it actually changes kids' eating habits at restaurants.
King tells KTRH that children's nutrition and eating habits are worthwhile causes for research. "We do know that currently many of the kids menu items in restaurants tend to be the higher-calorie, higher-fat containing foods," she says. While many restaurants have made a notable push in recent years to provide more healthy menu choices, King notes that many have forgotten about the kids' portion of their menu. "Sometimes it is hard to find healthy choices at restaurants for children," she says. "So we want to make sure that not only are we providing parents with healthy choices, but kids as well."
Government studies and restaurant interventions aside, the ultimate responsibility for kids' eating habits still lies with parents. King doesn't dispute that, explaining that kids often learn by what their parents model. "If parents continue to make unhealthy choices when they go out to restaurants, those children are going to learn to make those exact same choices," she says. "The parents need to model the behaviors that they want their child to take on for the rest of their lives."