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Getting Fed Up With Restaurant Keiki Menus

I have a serious pet peeve — or parent peeve — when our family goes out to eat. In 99 percent of restaurants, the keiki menu is horrible. Sure, most kids aren’t foodies, but why can’t there be at least one healthier option?

Here’s a sample of the usual suspects you’ll find on a menu for children: chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, grilled cheese.

The selection often comes with a side, such as french fries or potato chips, a sugary drink to wash it down and ice cream for dessert.

And we wonder why childhood obesity and diabetes are off the charts in the United States. It’s disheartening to see the same unhealthy offerings over and over again.

To be fair, my son would eat mac and cheese every day if we let him. His chosen menu would consist of mostly carbs. You know, waffles for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and mac and cheese for dinner. But we’ve found sneaky ways to get more healthy protein and veggies into his diet. Say we’re going to make mac and cheese for dinner. We’ll also cook up organic or grass-fed beef to go with it and greens like broccoli. We’re not perfect, but when we have control in our own kitchen, we do our best to make it a balanced meal.

Why can’t more restaurants do the same?

Keiki menus are convenient, but many times we find ourselves ordering from the adult menu for our kids or adding healthy sides to offset their unhealthy entrees.

I would like to give props to a few family-friendly restaurants that make it a point to include healthy choices for children. A gold star goes to Hyatt Regency Waikiki SHOR American Seafood Grill for its “For Kids by Kids” menu. “Kids Can Cook” host Haile Thomas helped develop the right menu, which is free of additives or fried food. Instead, children can experiment with fun, flavorful options. One popular pick is the “Create Your Own Pasta.” Boys and girls pick their noodles, sauce, protein and vegetable. They also can go for “Fun Fuel,” such as Shaken Chopped Salad, with roasted chicken, vegetables, nuts and brown rice; or organic turkey burgers.

A chain that deserves mention is Outback Steakhouse. Its menu is part of the Kids LiveWell Program. In addition to expected entrees, there are Sirloin Medallions, Grilled Chicken and Ribs with a choice of steamed broccoli, fresh apples and grapes, or fries.

This menu comes with an ice cream sundae, which can be used as a “carrot” to get your children to finish their meal — one of the oldest parenting tricks in the book: bribery.