The ubiquitous nature of the children’s menus found throughout the world today hides the fact that they mask a sinister change. One that has occurred without most of us even noticing. The change from trying to teach children to eat healthy food to giving them junk that most nutrition conscious adults wouldn’t even touch. They are everywhere so they can’t be bad right? They are very bad for many reasons. In part they are responsible for the skyrocketing obesity rates among the young, although meat and dairy subsidy driven school lunches share the blame.

Pregnant women are often very careful about what they eat for good reason. They want a healthy baby. The health of our children from a nutritional standpoint does not end at birth. Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his book Disease Proof Your Child explains brilliantly the connection between childhood nutrition and future health problems such as cancer and heart disease. Childhood is the time when humans need superior nutrition  the most, to fuel their developing bodies and brains. Chicken nuggets and burgers with fries are not the right kind of fuel.

Not only are they unhealthy but they teach poor eating habits that are likely to continue on through adulthood. They set us up for a life of bad choices because they offer no healthy options. It is impossible to learn how to order a healthy meal with only chicken fingers, grilled cheese, hot dogs and burgers to choose from.

One of the other alarming lessons that children’s menus deliver to kids is that meals are based on animal products. Except for the occasional pasta marinara dish, every item is usually some type of meat or cheese dish. Vegetarian choices are almost nonexistent and vegan  options virtually unheard of. Kids grow up indoctrinated with the idea that a meal means meat and/or dairy, usually fried, and if a vegetable is present that is generally fried as well, mostly in the form of potato chips or french fries.

For most of human history children ate what their parents ate. Our son, at 10, loves all kinds of vegetables other children won’t go near. Is it because he’s different? He was just offered better choices. Should we reform the children’s menu and ask them to include healthier options? A better solution might be to eliminate it all together and feed our kids the same nutritious choices that we want ourselves to make. Every meal is a learning opportunity for our kids. It’s important that we use these opportunities to teach the right lessons. We may have to improve some of our own our own choices to be better examples, but why not? What better gift can you give your child than a healthier life ahead. If you get a little healthier in the process that’s a bonus!