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Beacon Senior News

Combat obesity: Order off the kids' menu

Aug 04, 2020 01:30PM ● By Bonnie McCune

Everyone knows this country has an obesity problem.

Rates have increased significantly since 1999-2000 when 13.9 percent of children and 30.5 percent of adults were obese. In 2015-16, 18.5 percent of children hit the target while 39.6 percent of adults were obese, one study showed.

Fast food receives a hefty amount of criticism for its supposedly unhealthy ingredients and large portions. Most restaurants serve two to three times more than the healthy portion sizes recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. People tend to eat the complete meal or serving regardless of feeling full or not. We’ve gotten used to larger portions, and we expect them.

Common opinions include: “I want my money’s worth,” and “We love coming here because the portion sizes are huge.”

There’s a simple solution, but one not generally supported by the food service industry: Order from the children’s menu.

Most menus have a warning that diners must be under 10 or 12 to order from the kids’ menu section. A few also allow seniors to indulge from the list, but many simply prohibit the practice.

Rather than passing laws to ban “unhealthy” snacks in schools, why not insist that restaurants and places where people buy large helpings of food also offer smaller servings, and approve ordering food by size rather than age?

Take a look at the average calorie content for McDonald’s children’s meals. A Hamburger Happy Meal clocks in at 475 calories, a 4-piece Chicken McNuggets® Happy Meal at 405 calories, and a 6-piece Chicken McNuggets® Happy Meal at 495 calories. Over at Olive Garden, eaters can easily keep their caloric intake at about 500 to 750 by selecting from the kids’ menu choices. These are reasonable amounts for many adults to eat, too.

The restaurant industry is generally not supportive of this move. I’ve landed in several major brouhahas with my determined requests to act childish. Well, if the businesses don’t favor this approach, why not cut the average size of a portion by 50 percent and reduce the price by only one-third?

I remember a Weight Watchers’ leader years ago telling the audience, “You’re the customer. Ask for what you want or take your business elsewhere.” Sounds like good advice to me.