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Healthy Kid's Menus in Restaurants

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Today is our second day to revisit our four regional restaurants with nutritionist Paula Mee and our local family reviewer. Paula will chat with the owner and chef about the changes they made to their menu to make it more nutritional, taking on board the nutritional guidelines. Over the next few days we will revisit the regional restaurants with our regional family reviewers. Each of the four restaurants will receive a sticker from The Afternoon Show giving them the thumbs up that they have a healthy kid's menu. Today our second restaurant which stepped up to the challenge, and represented Connaught is Davis' at The Yeats Tavern, Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo.

Today is second visit to our regional restaurants since they worked on their kid's menus to make them nutritional. We have the second of our VT's featuring Davis' restaurant at The Yeats tavern, Drunmcliffe, Co. Sligo. In studio we have the owner Angela Davis, talking about the overall experience for the restaurant over the past month, the ingredient changes to the menu, the cost issues and how families mare embracing their new healthy menu.

National statistics

. 11.6% of Irish girls aged 5-12 are overweight while 13% are obese.
. 10.5% of Irish boys aged 5-12 years are overweight while 9.2% are obese.
. 40% of Irish children exceed the recommended maximum of energy intake from fat.
. 61% of children did not consume enough fibre.


. 1800 calories
. 85g sugar
. 70g fat - of which 20g saturated fat
. 4g salt

Angela Davis owner of Davis Restaurant at The Yeats Tavern, Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo.

It's great to finally meet you Angela, so tell me about Davis restaurant at The Yeats Tavern, how long have you been around?

In 1969 the Davis family opened the Yeats Tavern pub, 7 nights per week there was music in the pub and at the weekend there were a lot of bands playing. The pub is beside Drumcliffe River and Damian's mother started serving fresh salmon sandwiches and then soup. Soon after they started to prepare salads, chicken, steak and chips from their home upstairs and then serve the food in the pub. In 1990 they opened up a commercial kitchen and opened a small restaurant. In 1994 it was refurbished and a front glass part was put on. By 2008 it was further refurbished into the large restaurant of today. Damian's father passed away in 1987 and his mother is still working there today. To date Damian has worked there for 30 years and he undertaken part-time chef courses in Killybegs and Enniskillen.

How did you get involved with the campaign?

Davis' restaurant heard about The Afternoon Show Campaign through the Restaurant Association of Ireland. They then got a call from The Afternoon Show explaining that Davis are a very popular family restaurant in Sligo, and would we they be happy to represent Connaught. Initially they were unsure of what it would entail. Angela and her husband Damian realised it would be a great idea to take part as families are a huge part of the business, if the kids are happy then the parents are happy and anything that would improve the business was a bonus. They never felt it would be a big amount of work, just tweaks here and there, taking things out and adding things in.

Your restaurant was serving a lot of healthy dishes already, so was there a lot of work to do to improve the menu?

Angela and chef Mags sat down together and went though the menu. They began with the starters; they did things like adding salad to the garlic bread, grilling the sausages instead of frying them. They added vegetables to all the kids' dishes. Angela describes how it was very much a work in progress, trying different methods and dishes out. The restaurant added new dishes such as plain grilled chicken and extra fish dishes such as grilled plaice and a joint of the day. The recipe from Richie for the Asian Curry had to be tweaked, using a curry paste, crème fraiche, adding vegetables like spinach. Dishes with tomato sauce had broccoli added to them. The sirloin steak was replaced with a kid's fillet steak which looks smaller and nicer on the plate. They added extra vegetables to the spud in the bowl. Every dish has a small bit of sweet corn and carrots on the palte, sometimes the plates come back. The freshly breaded chicken goujons are popular. They also adjusted the desserts with a choice of healthier options, dips with bananas, strawberries into homemade puree sauce. Ice cream is still popular and chocolate cake and some children will always prefer them. Overall the healthier choice is available on the menu and the dishes have improved.

What were the main issues that came up for you during the past month?

Initially Angela and Mags wondered if they should survey children to see if they would like vegetables added to the dishes. They then decided to just add the vegetables to each dish and see what happened. Some children don't like vegetables and others pick at them, but will try more on the next visit. They were surprised how many children did try the vegetables. Overall there were no major changes to producing healthier options. The restaurant already used the produce for adult dishes, for example they just added vegetables to the tomato sauce. Angela believes that children enjoy having their own menu and been able to choose what they would like to eat.

What are the main things you learnt for your restaurant about serving healthy food for kid's?

Overall examine the menu in detail and think about what can make it healthier. It is important not to think what will kids not eat, just try the dishes and see what the response is from the kids. They replaced their battered cod with cod goujons. Angela always believes that presentation is the key; children respond to how the dishes are presented, it is important never to put too much on the plate. It was important to state on the menu that the dishes are homemade, Irish or grilled.

What was the reaction from families, were you surprised?

There was a varied reaction from families, many were delighted with the vegetables and that the menu was healthier and produce was sourced locally. Some kids weren't happy but they were the minority

What were the responses to the menu on Mother's Day and St. Patrick's Day?

It was very busy with families on both days, and the kid's tried all the dishes out. There were no complaints about the menu; a few children didn't like the vegetables. Chicken is still the most popular dish, since the change to the menu more fish dishes have been sold.

What are your future plans for the kid's menu?

The main plan is to keep the menu healthy, and to always review it and see are there any changes that can be made to make it healthier and improve it. It is important to keep an eye on the feedback. Overall it is easier to offer a healthy choice and put a bit of effort into it, and it will be worth it in the end.