Goodbye, Chicken Nuggets? Northern Ireland Hotels Aim to Revamp Kids’ Menus

Eddie McKeever, President of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) and Jennifer McGonagle, Senior Nutrition Policy Advisor at the FSA.

The NIHF and FSA have launched the ‘Choice for Children’ initiative, inviting hotel restaurants to create new children’s menu dishes that meet specific nutritional criteria like including vegetables/fruit, avoiding deep frying, and limiting salt, sugar and saturated fat.

The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) is partnering with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to launch a ‘Choice for Children’ initiative that highlights the importance of food choices for children. In March 2024, the FSA along with local councils published research into children’s menu offerings in restaurants, which revealed a concerning lack of variety and healthy options.

Discussing the ‘Choice for Children’ initiative Eddie McKeever, President of the NIHF, said:

“The family market is vital for hotels, especially for events like birthday parties and special occasions. Children are a key audience, and we are eager to introduce more appealing food options for them. The NIHF is keen to explore the opportunities for offering healthier options for children and to promote fresh, interesting food choices for young people.

“As part of our commitment to changing consumer needs and in response to the FSA’s findings, we are launching an initiative called ‘Choice for Children’.  Hotel restaurants will be given the opportunity to create a dish which will not only appeal to children but also offer an interesting alternative to the current children’s menu staples. The new dishes must meet certain healthier criteria. Shortlisted dishes will be promoted via social media and the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favourite. We are looking forward to seeing some delicious dishes on the menu.”

The dishes created by restaurants must comply with the following criteria:

  • Include at least one portion of vegetables/fruit.
  • Should not be deep fried.
  • Have no added salt.
  • Offer an alternative to chips such as boiled potatoes, rice, pasta, noodles or bread.
  • Be appropriately sized for a child.
  • Include ingredients that are higher in fibre and contain less salt, sugar and saturated fat.

Jennifer McGonagle, Senior Nutrition Policy Advisor at the FSA, welcomed the industry’s commitment to promoting diverse and nutritious children’s menus. Jennifer added:

“We know from our recent ‘What’s on the Children’s Menu’ research, conducted along with local councils, that 70% of businesses surveyed agreed the hospitality sector has a role in improving children’s diets.  The launch of the ‘Choice for Children’ initiative amongst hotel restaurants demonstrates the commitment to developing diverse nutritious menu options for children, which is extremely encouraging.  We’re really looking forward to seeing the innovative menu options created and how these are received by consumers.”

Applications to be submitted by Friday 10th May 2024.

To join the conversation and support this initiative, use the hashtag #ChoiceForChildren on social media to raise awareness.

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