Kids Restaurant Menus – Can’t We Do Better Than This?!

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One of my favorite restaurants in Washington, D.C., Dino, posted this notice on our neighborhood list serve about their new Sunday brunch:

 We also have a Kid’s Brunch menu and Kids’ Dinner menu where kids under 12 pay their age for up to three selections. Sorry, we do not have chemical filled processed foods like nuggets or cheese food on our Kids’ menu, just the same natural foods we serve adults in kid sized portions {with milder spicing as well}. Imagine that! 

Yes, imagine that!  Going into a restaurant that welcomes young children, without having the wait staff automatically hand you a “children’s menu” comprised of pasta, hot dogs, pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich. 

If you’ve followed my book, “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything,” you know I think that dealing with children’s menus in restaurants is one of the problems parents have to overcome in their quest to teach their kids to love to eat everything.  Eating out at a restaurant should be a treat for everyone at the table, an opportunity to try new foods and flavors.  And that includes the kids!

Fortunately, more and more chef-owned restaurants are following the route of Dino.  They’ve realized that even little kids can enjoy “real” food when they eat out, with some encouragement from their parents and assistance from the restaurant management.  Serving smaller portion sizes of the adult fare, at a reduced price, is a great way to do this.

First Lady Michelle Obama, a big advocate of kids eating well, addressed this topic in a recent speech to the National Restaurant Association.  “I’m asking you to use (your) creativity to rethink the food you offer, especially dishes aimed at young people, and to help us make the healthier choice the easier choice,” Mrs. Obama said.  “And today, no matter what kind of restaurant you visit — whether it’s Italian, French, Mexican, American — most kids’ menus look pretty much the same.  And trust me, we’ve seen a lot of them.  One local survey found that 90 percent of those menus includes mac and cheese; 80 percent includes chicken fingers; 60 includes burgers or cheeseburgers.

“ And I think — and I know you all think — that our kids deserve better than that.”

Yes, kids do deserve better than a steady diet of that – foods that are not only healthier, but tastier and more interesting as well.  I’m betting that if you start exposing your children to a broader array of foods when you take them out to eat, they might surprise you by actually trying and eating them!  And note that this works especially well when your kids are really young; don’t wait until they are 10 or 12 and you have some bad restaurant habits already ingrained.

Next week:  Tips on restaurant dining with kids, including how to make it a food experience, even for the little ones.

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2 Responses to “Kids Restaurant Menus – Can’t We Do Better Than This?!”

  1. Cheryl Says:

    I never understood the purpose of having a kid’s menu at a restaurant when all they serve is nuggets/hotdogs/mac & cheese. It’s no wonder that so many of our kids turn into adults with unhealthy & unadventurous diets. And why are our kids sposed to eat this when we get the good stuff? Now that our kids are 2 & 5, we order an adult main & split it. When they were younger, they just ate off our plates.

  2. Tom Says:

    Great Post!

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