Improve kids menus “one restaurant and one family at a time.”
That’s the mission of Manuela Seitz-Hipkins, Moss Beach resident and founder of the local organization Well Kiddos, a program designed to help restaurants, schools and parents offer healthy food choices for children when dining in — or out.
A mother of three young children and a pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist, Seitz-Hipkins has developed a deep respect for the connection between nutritional habits of the children she treated and the effectiveness of their therapy. Her vision is to change kid’s menus in restaurants locally and nationally, and so far her plan is working very well right here in Half Moon Bay.
The list of restaurants that made healthy changes to their menu based on the recommendations by Well Kiddos goes on, from , and Café Gibraltar to ,, , and . In fact, restaurants and businesses in Pacifica, such as The Green Enchilada, Pacifica Farmer’s Market and Granucci’s are also developing healthier menu and food options for children because of Seitz-Hipkins' influence.
Her most recent accomplishment? Getting to improve their children’s menu by adding healthier options and using better ingredients.
“It’s baby steps for a lot of the restaurants we work with, but with just a few changes, restaurants can give the signal to parents that they are trying to offer healthy choices on their kid's menus,” said Seitz-Hipkins.
"I was referred to Cameron’s by a customer who wanted see more fruits and vegetables on the menu," she said. "So I called to see if I could come by and review the menu. We’ve been very happy with how supportive Cameron’s has been.”
Some changes to the kid's menu at Cameron's includes cooking all deep-fried items in rice oil, which has zero trans fat and is GMO free. Other changes include organic soy milk as an option, and giving parents and the kids the choice of subbing out French fries for carrot sticks, applesauce or a small salad. Cameron’s is also a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program that has issued guidelines on purchasing sustainable fish.
"He’s looking into offering organic ice cream, too," said Seitz-Hipkins.
Reviewing the menus and helping restaurants create healthier choices on the menus to win new customers and empower chefs to be part of the new health revolution are all part of what comes naturally to Seitz-Hipkins when working with restaurants.
Restaurant owner Cameron Palmer couldn’t be more pleased with the process and results.
“We met a number of times to discuss her program to help offer healthier items for our young kid diners,” said Palmer. “We’re a few weeks into and we’re going through lots of carrots and applesauce so I’d say the response from customers has been very positive. It’s been a nice addition, and I enjoyed working with Manuela. She’s been a wealth of knowledge for our restaurant.”
Other practical guidelines that Well Kiddos recommends to restaurants like Cameron's includes offering olive oil as a dip for bread, serving butter upon request or as an alternative, using salt sparsely, featuring more baked — not fried — options on the menu, and serving water or fresh squeezed juices or juices without added sugars.
Well Kiddos also encourages restaurants to follow the current ADA recommendations and to consider the following:
* Ingredients that are fresh, local, unprocessed, sustainable, organic or unsprayed and are low in sugar and fat and salt
* Products that only contain natural oils or fats, sugars and ingredients
* Food that is free of rBST, hormones, nitrates, artificial food color, preservatives and other chemicals
* Products that are GMO free
Next on the list for Well Kiddos are the menus at Crab Landing, Miramar Beach Restaurant and the Ritz-Carlton, said Seitz-Hipkins.
"A big motivating factor for parents and restuarants to offer healthier menu items is the fact that 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and that number will go up to 1 in 3 by 2050. So we've had a great response from the community, one restaurant at a time."
For more information about Well Kiddos, go to www.wellkiddos.com or call 274-0269 or e-mail email@example.com.