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Healthy Kid's Menus in Restaurants

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

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.

Background - Guidelines GDA's for Children Aged 5 - 10:-

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

Stephen Feerick

Stephen Feerick is the chef and manager of The Gallery Bar and Restaurant in Mallow, Co. Donegal. The Afternoon Show worked with Stephen one dish on his menu dish - pizza and chips, and he took on board our guidelines to change many of his dishes' ingredients and how they were cooked to make them more nutritional.

It's great to finally meet you Stephen, so tell me a bit about the history of The Gallery Bar and Restaurant, how long have you been around?

The restaurant/bar was built from scratch 11 years ago. The previous owners focused more on the bar side and only 20% of the focus was on the restaurant side. Five years ago in March 2005, Stephen and wife Aideen Ferrick bought the restaurant/pub.

They decided to make the restaurant their priority over the bar part. Previously Stephen was a chef for 24 years and owned a restaurant in Fermoy for 3 years. When they first opened the Gallery Bar and Restaurant Stephen worked with the existing chef from the original restaurant over the first 18 months. Stephen decided to turn his attention and work front of house.

Tell me how and why you got involved with the campaign?

The Afternoon Show contacted us, and explained that we are a very popular family restaurant in Mallow, Co. Cork, and would we be interested in representing Munster. Stephen and Aileen were very grateful to be involved, although they were a bit skeptical in the beginning.

Their biggest fear was that an ultra healthy menu would scare kids and families away. Soon they realized that the floor staff could convey to the parents that the menu was healthy without frightening off the kids - they could tell the parents that the dishes were oven baked or grilled. They also were concerned they would not have enough time to roll a healthy menu out with balancing work and family.

How did you go about changing you menu?

After the initial visit by The Afternoon Show team, manager and owner chef Stephen Ferrick changed the whole menu by trial and error into healthier dishes. Over the past month they have phased the menu in on a gradual basis. They have specials on the weekend for children full of nutritional based ingredients and they will be rotated every 5 - 6 weeks.

They got ideas on how to change their menu from Paula Mee and from a local 'school healthy eating week' initiative. They hope to bring in a points system to award kids with points and when they have the required amount they get a voucher for a local shop. There has been a lot of trial and error they tried spinach out but it didn't work. They are continually working on the menu.

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

They have specials on the weekend for children full of nutritional based ingredients, wholemeal - beef stew with lean cut beef, carrot, and parsnip - served in a bowl with mash.

They have merely tweaked the menu than change the format of the menu for example they changed how pizza was made, kids are unaware there is vegetables in broccoli sauce. They have added turkey sausage which is locally made in the butchers. Soft drinks have been replaced with orange, apple or milk. They have introduced jelly into their desserts. He tweaked Richie's pizza recipe, the sauce was altered, and the vegetables were hidden. They found that children did not enjoy the spinach so replaced it with sliced ham, chicken and sweet corn.

Stephen and wife Aideen made particular changes such as only cooking chicken in the oven, no food is deep-fried anymore, and frozen chips have been replaced with chilled chips which are bought in from a local supplier.

When cooking Bolognese dishes the chefs use wholemeal spaghetti which is not completely brown. In the chicken pasta dishes salt and sugar are no longer used. In the Bolognese dish the pasta was changed to penne pasta. Any changes they have made, the dishes will be nutritional and free of saturated fat. The pork sausages were replaced with turkey sausages, and the beef stew used lean cubed Irish beef, carrots, parsnips and onions served on mash potatoes.

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

Stephen spoke to families that visit the restaurant regularly, and some conveyed the fact that when they bring their children out they would like to give them a treat than something healthy. He was concerned that families would perceive the restaurant as a 'green' restaurant and he would loose business. Stephen was also concerned about the price implications that he would have to increase the prices to his customers. He found out there were no new price implications. He also was worried that his utility bill would rise but this never happened.

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

Overall it was not a huge amount of work to change the menu and there was not a big increase in the cost issues. The other chefs in the kitchen are happy with the changes.

What was the reaction from families to changes to your menu, were you surprised?

Overall parents are very happy with new menu, very few miss the old menu. It is refreshing for parents to have healthy options than processed food; the dishes are slowly being introduced and parents are very pleased with the results. Visually parents can see the difference in the dishes.

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

Keep it interesting, varied, try different things and if something doesn't work then replace it.

He will keep the special at weekends for kids and keep it nutritional. He would like to get other restaurants involved in the campaign. Avoid using deep fat fryer.