Ron Shaich, the CEO of Panera Bread made headlines when he challenged CEOs of other fast food restaurant chains to try eating their kids’ meal menus for a week. He says that the CEOs of Wendy’s, Burger King, and McDonald’s have yet to respond to this challenge. Of course, NPR points out that kids’ meals at Panera Bread aren’t exactly the healthiest either. For example, their mac and cheese has even more sodium than a four-piece chicken nugget option offered by these rival chains.
When it comes to kids’ meals, the first things that come to mind can be chicken nuggets, fries, and soft drinks. However, these food options and food chains are so common that it is difficult to avoid them. It’s imperative that companies make real efforts to improve the content and quality of kids’ meals.
As a way to address this issue, Panera Bread will include smaller portioned version of the main menu to their existing kids’ menu. That way, kids’ can have a wider variety of ingredients in their meals at Panera Bread. Other chains have also made important changes to kids’ menus. For example, apple slices are now standard in every McDonald’s Happy Meal. They are also making efforts to replace fountain drinks in kids’ meals with milk and low-sugar fruit juice options instead.
There is still a long way to go before kids’ meals at fast food restaurants actually offer fiber-rich, fresh vegetable-filled, whole grain-dense meals that health experts recommend. Until then, as consumers, we should be aware of ongoing improvements and treat kids’ meals as something to eat sparingly.