Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kids' Stuff

I was at a cafe with a friend of mine, the other day, when a toddler wandered over to our table to show us the remnants of his half eaten slobber ridden cookie. A few evenings later, the same friend and I were at an Italian restaurant when we were treated to a 3 year old girl's rendition of the "wiggle butt dance." Standing on her chair, at a nearby table, she rhythmically gyrated her hips to and fro, while singing "Wiggle butt, wiggle wiggle butt," at a more than adequate decibel level.

While I'm typically not known for being a grouch, when I pay good money for Mushroom Ravioli and a Summer Ale, or even a cafe burger and a Coke, I want to be able to enjoy my meal without being annoyed by someone's kid. Is that unreasonable? I don't think so.

Before I begin to rag on kids too much, I need to point out that not all children share this deficit in basic etiquette. My 4 year old nephew, Abram, can sit up in his seat, order his meal and sides from the server, and maintain a relatively quiet presence through the meal. Near the end of the meal, when a understandable degree of boredom sets in, my brother, or sister-in-law, will take Abram for a walk to let him stretch his legs.

Yet, too many parents don't take the time to teach their brood how to behave in a public place. Thus, I applaud the actions of Pennsylvania restauranteur, Mike Vuick, of McDain's Restaurant. After receiving multiple complaints, Vuick banned children under 6 years of age from his establishment. In his own words, according to The Huffington Post, "Although kids may be at the center of their parents' universe, they aren't at the center of everyone else's too."

Frankly, I'd be for restaurants excluding kids under 12 or 13 years of age, or offering "adult only" dining rooms. OK, a restaurant's bar or lounge is an adult only room, but sometimes adults want to enjoy a nice steak, quietly, outside of a bar atmosphere. They should have that right.

Kids need to eat too though, so where should they be welcome. Well, family chains, such as Denny's and IHOP, and fast food joints are perfectly appropriate places for kids to learn public dining manners. Most family chains have children's menus and fun coloring pages to keep tiny hands occupied and happy. Many fast food places have boxed kids' meals and even small play grounds where little tikes can expel excess energy in appropriate ways.

Now, somebody out there just clucked their tongue and scoffed, "Yeah buddy, but fast food is making our children obese." They're referring to meals, such as; Wendy's Kids' Meal which includes a Chicken Sandwich, French fries, and chocolate Frosty delivering 770 calories & 34 grams of fat; KFC Kids Meal with Popcorn chicken, potato wedges, string cheese, and soda totaling 800 calories & 1,800 milligrams of sodium; and the A&W Kids Meal offering Cheeseburger, French fries, and soda for 780 calories & 9 grams of saturated fat.

In response to such trends gaining public attention, McDonald's has announced the release of a healthier Happy Meal. According to McDonald’s own website, the new Happy Meal will be available in some of their restaurants as early as September 2011, and available in all 14,000 restaurants by the end of the March, 2012. The new Happy Meal will come standard with a quarter cup of apple slices, and a new smaller size French fries (1.1 ounces) to accompany the child's choice of a hamburger, cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets. Choice of beverage will include cartons of new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low fat white milk, or soda. For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apple slices will be available, upon request.

Right now, a Happy Meal consisting of a hamburger, fries, and kids' regular Coke delivers 590 Calories & 20 grams of fat. Upon implementation of their health initiative, a Happy Meal consisting of a hamburger, fries-and-apple combo, and kids' regular Coke will deliver 470 calories and 14 grams of fat. The same meal, with McNuggets replacing the hamburger, will go from 520 calories and 23 grams of fat to 410 calories and 17 grams of fat.

While I think such changes are positive steps forward, I feel a need to address the tongue clucker's original statement. Such meals are not making kids obese. Parents buying kids such meals multiple times per week, then allowing those kids to watch TV and play computer games all day, instead of burning energy outside, is what's making kids obese. The meals themselves are perfectly fine when consumed as a bi-weekly, or even monthly, treat. In between such special trips to their favorite burger stand though, they should be getting; fruits, veggies, dairy products, and whole grains; at home, and burning those calories in fun and/or productive ways.

I like kids, I really do. I simply enjoy them more when they've been taught good manners by parents who are on the ball. Yes, they need to enjoy the treat of eating out occasionally. Let's simply let them enjoy eating at appropriate places, until they develop a proper level of social etiquette.

No comments:

Post a Comment