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Beyond chicken tenders


Beyond chicken tenders

Five kid-friendly dishes that should be on your menu now

With the rise in food allergies and gluten intolerance, increasing rates of childhood obesity, and the growing awareness in healthy eating, parents are taking a closer look at restaurant menus. According to recent research from MMGY Global,1 traveling families in the United States are making it a top priority to get healthier this year. On a global scale, health-focused travelers now represent 40% of the travel segment, according to a SpaFinder Trend Report.2

There is a wide range of menu items that you can, and should, offer these niche customers. The availability of safe, wholesome options will expand your customer base, and make your business stand out in a sea of chicken tenders and fries.

Meet the Demand for “G-Free”

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body has an extreme reaction to gluten, is on the rise. In most parts of the world, the prevalence of Celiac disease in a healthy adult population varies between one in 100 and one in 300.3 People diagnosed with this malady face a challenge when dining out. Gluten can be found in foods containing flour, or any grains of wheat, rye, barley, or oats. People with Celiac cook with starch alternatives found in corn, potato, and rice. They can also eat meats, fish, eggs, dairy, and produce. They must be cautious of foods prepared with bread crumbs or breading, batter, and certain sauces.

According to the food delivery website GrubHub, gluten-free restaurant orders have climbed nearly 60 percent in the past year in the United States. Among the top five most frequently ordered “g-free” menu items are pizza, sandwiches, and burgers. Coincidentally, these are also among the most popular kids’ menu items.

Gluten-free recipes are as close as your nearest internet connection, and many reputable sources, such as the Celiac Disease Foundation in the United States and the Coeliac UK organization in the United Kingdom, have pages dedicated to kid-friendly foods like pancakes, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, meatballs, and a variety of desserts.

Options for Customers with Peanut Allergies

On a global scale, food allergies affect nearly one to three percent of adults, and four to six percent of children.4 A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein – an allergen – as a threat and attacks it. Peanuts and tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts are at the top of list of most common allergens. Peanut allergy symptoms can range from a minor irritation to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

When serving people with peanut allergies, what you don’t offer on your menu is more important than what you do. Safe foods are those with absolutely no traces of peanuts or peanut oil in any of the ingredients, nor in the food preparation area or on serving utensils. For recipe ideas, search sites such as,, and (available in English). You’ll find baked mozzarella sticks, veggie pizza, cookies, and more. You can also utilize sunflower seed or soy nut butter for a safe version of “PB&J.”

Selections Suited for Lactose-Free Customers

Milk allergies and lactose intolerance are different, but with both, dairy products should be avoided. Milk is another top food allergen, causing sufferers skin irritation and hives, wheezing, vomiting, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Lactose intolerance is primarily gastrointestinal; causing bloating, stomach aches, and nausea.

There are many dairy substitutes out there, like soy-based yogurt, coconut milk, and dairy-free margarine. Therefore, you can still prepare popular kids’ dishes, like pizza with soy cheese, and rice milk “ice cream.” Also, vegan foods are dairy-free, so vegan “hot dogs” and similar products are fair game. Websites like,, and (available in English) provide a multitude of recipes. 

Healthy Substitutes for Familiar Foods

Young, unadventurous eaters are even more so when they’re traveling in unfamiliar surroundings. Grateful parents will appreciate healthy twists on no-fail, recognizable selections. Consider multi-grain waffles, turkey burgers, and apple or sweet potato fries. You can broaden the appeal of naturally sweet fruit smoothies by offering them with not only a dairy base of milk or yogurt, but also soy, coconut, almond, or rice milk.  

Actually, You Should Still Have Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders are a tried-and-true stand by, and many parents depend on them appearing on the children’s menu. Sometimes, they’re the only reliable source of protein in their child’s day. However, you can offer them baked instead of fried, or with breading alternatives. Challenge your chefs to get creative with crushed almonds, whole-wheat flour, cornmeal or corn cereal flakes, or gluten-free all purpose flour mix. 

  • 1. MMGY Global 2013 Portrait of American Travelers
  • 2. SpaFinder Wellness 2013 Trend Report
  • 3. World Gastroenterology Organisation
  • 4. International Food Safety Authorities Network