You don’t have to be a lawyer for McDonald’s to know that childhood obesity has become a rather big—and complicated—issue. On the one hand, it’s a real problem. “More than half the kids in New York are fat,” nutritionist Oz Garcia says with a sigh. “Schoolyard activity in the city is down 60 to 70 percent.” On the other hand, argues a mother whose ninth-grade daughter already refuses to drink 2 percent milk, if you start micromanaging your kids’ diet too early, can eating disorders be far behind?
To add fuel to the debate, this week ZoneChefs is launching the first Zone Diet delivery program for Manhattan’s youngest dieters, ages 8 to 16. “We didn’t want to do it,” says founder Arthur Gunning, who has been crafting ZoneChefs meals for his 1,300 adult clients since last August. “We got so many requests from their parents that we had to.”
The program includes three meals and two snacks a day, all delivered each morning in individual “lunch-box-friendly” containers to one’s doorstep and all prepared according to the 40-30-30 Zone ratio of carbs to fat to protein.
Coming up with healthy meals that kids would eat took some work. “You can’t do grilled cheese,” says Gunning. “But we do have a turkey hot dog.” It’s served without the bun. And dessert seems suspiciously un-Zone: double-chocolate-chip cookies and peaches-and-cream cobbler, both fortified with soy-protein powder (just like Mom used to use!).
The peanut-butter-and-jelly French toast and Sloppy Joes also sound too good to be true, but the ratios, Gunning insists, have been carefully calibrated and approved by a nutritionist as well as his 12-year-old daughter, Daniela, who has test-driven ZoneChefs with her friends and teachers at Poly Prep. “I love this food more than Peter Luger’s,” she claims.
The service is meant for kids who legitimately need to shed a few—a 279-pound 11-year-old was a member of the first trial group. But what’s to stop parents from putting a mildly overweight child on a diet before he or she can even learn how many ounces are in a pound? The price, perhaps: A month on the Zone comes to $866.