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If it were up to them, healthy kids’ menu ideas would probably include lots of burgers, fries and generous sides of mac and cheese. There’s no denying the tasty satisfaction that comes from enjoying classic comfort foods. Still, children need healthy menu options.
While the food service industry continues to adopt healthy menu ideas for children, there’s still room for improvement. By developing dishes for youngsters that reduce calorie, fat and sodium consumption, you make it easier for kids to make smart dining decisions.
Delicious Menu Ideas Designed to Inspire Young Appetites
From healthier cooking at home to better choices at school cafeterias, kids are acquiring a real taste for vegetables, fruits and whole grains. As you cater to this younger set of discerning diners, try incorporating some of these healthy menu ideas for children into your restaurant’s offerings.
1. Artistic, Crunchy Veggies and Dip
Offer kids appetizers designed to delight and satisfy. Let your culinary imagination play with baby carrots, broccoli crowns and romaine hearts to create shareable plates. Fill them with fun faces, piles of bright colors and skewered seasonal specials sided with favorite dips.
2. Sweet, Creamy Fruit Salads
Granny Smiths, honeydews and pineapples always play sweetly together in nutritious fruit salads. Add visual variety, and dazzle young diners with a toss of mango cubes, melon balls and sliced strawberries. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, and top with a healthy drizzle of yogurt for creamy kid-appeal.
3. Kid-Centric Garden Bars
Ruby Tuesday really knows how to get the small set to think of salads as entrees. Their kids’ menu features a Create Your Own Garden Bar. Young guests top custom blends of greens with protein-packed ham, turkey, sliced eggs and even edamame and bell pepper strips.
4. Sensational Vegetable Soup
We like Panera Bread’s take on every kid’s favorite soup. The restaurant chain serves up a rich tomato-based version that hits high flavor and nutritional notes with yellow beans, zucchini, cauliflower and barley. Each bowl is finished with an eye-catching cloud of nut-free basil pesto.
5. Cool Starchy Side Stuff
Sometimes, newly developing gourmets crave alternatives to green veggies. A little starch on the side can be cool and healthy too especially when it caters to their taste. Sprinkle sweet potato bites with cinnamon, fluff brown rice with pineapple, and add zucchini to oatmeal-raisin muffins.
6. Differently Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Trading out standard slices of white for hearty whole wheat definitely improves the nutritional profile of this classic sandwich. Layer cinnamon-raisin bread with thin slices of apples and cheddar, and surprise the younger crowd with something grilled deliciously different.
7. Terrific Veggie Tamales
As our contribution to this list of kid-centric ideas, we offer a real hands-on dining experience. Our premium hearts of romaine wrap up tasty vegetarian tamales stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Monterey jack. Whole or sliced, they’re a delicious fit on smaller plates.
8. Playful Pasta to Order
Uno Pizzeria & Grill invites kids to have a culinary good time by letting them put together their own Pick a Pasta combo orders. With a variety of fun shapes and bright colors, youngsters enjoy taking control as they design their dinners right down to sauces and veggie add-ons.
9. Heavenly, Healthy Mac and Cheese
Make every young diner’s favorite comfort food healthier with less fat and lots of great taste. Changes as small as low-fat milk and low-fat cheddar substitutes make a big difference. Whisk a little chicken stock powder into the sauce for extra flavor. This dish definitely has cross-generational potential.
10. Healthy Pizzas With Pizzazz
You can go several savory ways with this idea. We like starting with a whole-grain flatbread crust, adding veggie toppings and skipping the tomato sauce for a savory pesto. Try a totally different twist on this all-time kid classic by using vitamin D-rich portobellos as deep-dish mini-pizza crusts.
Satisfying Across Generations
When children enjoy their meal, you’re doing more than pleasing young palates. You’re also enhancing their parents’ dining experience. More than 40 percent of average family food spending happens in restaurant settings. Healthy kids’ menu ideas are good for your customers, and they’re good for business too.
We understand how important it is for you to plate up the best possible choices for your restaurant guests. As one of California’s leading produce companies, we’re uniquely positioned to help you satisfy appetites of all ages. You can depend on Hitchcock Farms for premium selections sure to please palates across generations.
Dan Holt is an experienced produce professional who started in the industry as a quality assurance inspector in the early 1990s and leads sales at Hitchcock Farms as Vice President. Prior to joining Hitchcock Farms, Dan enjoyed success in organic, specialty and conventional produce and with independent operators, regional and national chains in North America and abroad. Dan continues his passion in produce through collaborative inspiration and promoting healthy and sustainable food.