Ok, before I go into a rant on kids’ menus please let me know…
How important is it to you that a restaurant (or resort/hotel) is Family Nutritionist Approved?
I’d so appreciate if you let me know in the comments.
I’m all about positivity when it comes to feeding our family, but today I need to vent.
You see, I’m attending the Restaurant Canada Show this week (and just got back from a family resort in the Dominican) so both have got me thinking about kids’ food and kids’ menus.
I do give restaurants and hotels credit for trying to make eating out/traveling easier for families. But virtually every kids’ menu is working against what parents are trying so hard to do!
To raise health-minded kids.
There’s a huge opportunity here because…
Restaurants are one of the best places to expose kids to new foods.
Eating out with kids provides a fabulous opportunity to explore new foods in a new environment (outside their home). The ambiance, the food is presented in an appetizing way, the aroma fuels the appetite, the meals are delicious, and the novelty of being out of the home with an appetite lends itself to an experience where children are more apt to try something new.
But the kids’ menu comes out and you get french fries and grilled cheese. Doh!
So we shoot that opportunity in the foot when the only options are the same nutrient-lacking items.
Here we are enjoying Teppanyaki at our resort in the Bahia Principe a few weeks ago.
Kids want to learn to like new foods.
My other hangup is that there’s a growing number of children have eating challenges (46% of typically developing children are picky eaters). Eating is hard for them and the way food is served can make or break their willingness to eat something new. When they don’t eat, it takes the joy out of that dining experience.
Plus there’s the prevalence of dietary restrictions that families are dealing with – from minor food intolerances to true life-threatening allergies.
2.5 million, or 7.5 percent of Canadians are affected directly by food allergy (Soller et al., 2012). And a total of 50 percent of Canadian households are affected, directly or indirectly, by food allergy (Harrington et al., 2012) – Semantic Scholar
So I’d really love to see restaurants and hotels step up to help remove the stress that comes with feeding kids outside the home. By offering foods that are easier for kids to eat without sacrificing on nutrition. And by taking into consideration dietary needs for families so they can eat out or in without the worry of someone falling ill.
Once a family finds an eating establishment who understands their needs and makes eating out a stress-free (and healthier) experience, that family is coming back – again and again. Oh, and they are telling all their friends about it on Facebook or posting photos of their kids eating on Instagram.
It’s a win-win!
Personally, we have a rotation of the same restaurants that we visit or takeout from every week or so. We know what to expect from them, we know that the kids will eat, and Keith and I can enjoy our meal. It’s glorious!
Being both a mom who’s trying to raise 3 healthy humans, and a nutritionist who has helped hundreds and hundreds of families, I can’t keep quiet anymore.
That’s why I’m on a mission to help restaurants (resorts and hotels too).
As a Nutritionist who has worked with hundreds of families around the world, and a parent myself, I’m on a mission to help food service providers help kids (and families) do better with eating.
To create menus that surprise and delight families.
To create experiences that make eating out (and takeout) easy – and fun for a change!
Here I am working with Piano Piano on their refreshingly healthy but fun kids’ menu. And parents send me messages all the time saying thank you for changing expectations and experiences for their kids when they eat here and other places I work with.
Restaurant owners, chefs, and food service providers, please listen up.
If you’re going to offer a kids’ menu, can we at least give our kids the credit they deserve? Counter to our beliefs, children want to be treated like adults and eat like adults, but they will take the path of least resistance when it’s offered.
So if you only give them the choice of chicken nuggets, pizza, pasta, and fries those are the options they will choose.
If they aren’t the only options their world opens up. My girls have tried so many new foods while eating out of the house. Olives, oysters, pesto, sundried tomatoes, yucca, pomegranate – they were all first sampled at restaurants and are now on their food list.
Here’s Naomi eating (devouring!) mussels for the first time at a restaurant in Sauble Beach when she was two.
Let me be clear though…
I don’t believe in restricting nutrient-lacking food (like cheese poppers and hot dogs) – especially when they’re within arms reach. Because food restriction can backfire in the long term and I don’t want my girls to sneak cookies from the cookie jar. Or feel bad about eating something that isn’t a superfood.
Because there’s a time and place for beige foods and treats. And I even include dessert with meals!
But for goodness sake, why do we have to collect all of those nutrient-deprived foods and call them the “KIDS MENU”?
Grilled cheese and fries can be on the menu, but don’t stop there! Because it tells our kids that this is what they’re supposed to eat. The other stuff is for grown-ups.
If we’re at a party and they’ve got hotdogs, then the kids can make that choice.
I just don’t want restaurants and other family destinations to make that choice for them. You know?