There’s not much that links McDonald’s, Cheesecake Factory or the average Italian trattoria together. Ask the chefs and they will probably do as much as possible to distance themselves from the others. But, all over America and much of Europe, there is one thing that seems to bind almost every low to mid-range eatery, with little logical explanation as to why. For some reason, we seem incapable of creating anything other than terrible children’s menus.
Almost every restaurant will include some riff on chicken nuggets, burgers, mac and cheese and mini pizzas. These options are almost always all bland, boring and generally bad for you. However, despite the general sea of beige on offer, there are some options that are definitely best left well alone - for reasons of health as well as flavour. Here are seven Kids' Menu items that you should absolutely never order for your kids.
7. P.F Chang’s - Kids’ Crispy Honey Chicken
You might think that veering away from tried, tested and terrible kids classics would be a good move for America’s most popular Chinese chain. You’d be mistaken. A combination of deep fried meat and sticky sweet sauce mean that this dish weighs in with a whopping 23 grams of sugar per portion. It might not be covered in cheese, but it hardly counts as healthy.
6. Ruby Tuesday - Mini Burgers and Fries
Ruby Tuesday’s least healthy kids’ option might not have made it onto this list, were it not for the fact that every plate comes with not one but two burgers. This takes the overall calorie count to over 870 for the turkey patty option, including more than 40 grams of fat. Even for an occasional indulgence, this might go too far.
5. Uno’s Chicago Grill - Kids’ Chicken Pops
This is not the last time that the Uno’s Italian franchise will appear on this list, and deservedly so. Their first entry is remarkable, if only for containing more sugar than a standard serving of vanilla ice cream. To top it off, the dish is also riddled with sodium and saturated fat, making it a far cry from a grilled chicken breast.
4. Applebees - Kids’ Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Grilled cheese sandwiches can be a great and incredibly reasonable choice for your child. Just not when they’ve been made in an Applebees kitchen. While no grilled cheese is ever going to win a clean eating award, what’s really troubling about the Applebees option is the high levels of trans fat it contains. Despite health guidelines stipulating that children should restrict their intake to no more than one gram per day, this sandwiches delivers all that in one hit.
3. Cheesecake Factory - Kids’ Pasta with Alfredo Sauce
The Cheesecake Factory is a notorious temple to overindulgence, with several of their standard menu items ranking as among the least healthy fast food options in the country. The kids menu is little different. Clocking in with over 1,100 total calories, the Kids’ Pasta with Alfredo Sauce delivers almost 70% of a child’s recommended calorie intake in one go, alongside a dangerous 2.5 grams of trans fat.
2. Burger King - Kids' Double Cheeseburger with Small Fries and Coke
Any fast food item with “double” in the title promises to be a calorie bomb, but this sandwich might just take the biscuit. According to NBC News, “BK's double beef earns the distinction of being the fattest meal for an on-the-go kid.” With 1,100 calories, 52 grams of fat and over 1800 milligrams of salt, this is not the way to stay healthy.
1. Uno Chicago Grill - Make Your Own Pizza
Right at the top of the tree, we return to Uno. Though the danger with this dish is not necessarily the fault of the restaurant, it’s clear that this option is a disaster waiting to happen. According to the Uno’s website, kids are encouraged to build their own pies from a pre-made dough, sauce, cheese and pepperoni. It all says that the cheese and pepperoni alone come in at over 1200 calories. If allowed to run riot, kids could easily end up creating something that blows all other unhealthy competition completely out of the water.
Eating on the go can be tricky and stressful. It’s often tempting to go for what seems like the most straightforward option and worry about the consequences later. Though it’s obviously up to you how navigate a fast food restaurant with your family, it’s always good to be aware of exactly what it is you may be eating.