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Do We Need Kid’s Menus?

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Time was, back when we were new parents, getting the children’s menu at a restaurant seemed like a great benefit. (And you’d be extra-lucky if the menu came with crayons.) But now that the kids are a little bit older, and we’re a little more seasoned (OK, jaded), we’re starting to wonder if a kid’s menu is really a good thing.

We were inspired – no, shamed – by a recent New York Times article about New York chef Nicola Marzovilla’s philosophy on kid’s menus (don’t need them) and feeding his own kids (make them taste everything). At home he has a bunch of adventurous teenagers who chow down on raw fish, whole fish, and snails. [From the article: “The table is very important,” Mr. Marzovilla explained  … “It’s about nutrition, it’s about family; you go right down the line. And the children’s menu is about the opposite — it’s about making it quick, making it easy, and moving on.”]

In our family, we’ve come to realize that the problem with kid’s menus is twofold: One, how will the kids ever be inspired to try new things if they’re spoon-fed pizza, hamburgers, and chicken nuggets at every Italian, Chinese, or Mexican restaurant they visit? And two, what message are we sending if we eat freshly crafted fine foods while the kids chow down on the white-flour, high-fat, least healthy foods in the kitchen?

With that said, we’re probably not going to splurge on an extra entree (or even half-portion entree) if we know our kid is only going to take an obligatory bite and then push the food away. And we’d like it if our kids would sit nicely at the table and enjoy their food along with everyone else.

But from now on, we’re going to stick even more firmly to one of our long-held rules, which is that you can’t order something completely far afield of what everyone else is eating (a hamburger at a Cuban restaurant, for instance). We’re also adding some new resolutions: Make the kids try at least a bite of whatever we’ve ordered. Encourage them to order from the regular menu when something strikes their fancy. And find some families whose kids eat whole fish and snails so we can go out to dinner with them.

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0 Responses to Do We Need Kid’s Menus?

  1. Beth May 29, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Jeanne, love this post! I wish we were able to expose the kids to more variety, but recently when I had a “playing hookie” day with my 4 year old son, we went to Bertucci’s – pretty tame – and he tried salad and an olive and artichoke, and except for the olive – liked it. All it took was me eating it without his sister, the crayons and a dining room full of families to distract him.

  2. Lisa Suriano May 30, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    I read that article and thought it was really interesting. It made me view kid’s menus as a missed opportunity. The kids menu has value in that is a more affordable option for parents to take when eating out with their children. It also allows for appropriate portion sizes. The problem lies in the junky foods that populate kids menus. As a person that works everyday encouraging children to explore healthy foods, I feel that if kids menus were transformed to offer unique, nutritious AND kid friendly fare they could serve as a great tool for broadening horizons. I dont think they need to be eliminate, just rethought.

  3. Shannon May 30, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    We’ve done that rule from the very beginning with our kids. They must eat the cuisine a restaurant serves, not the kids’ junk on the menu. They are going on 8 & 5 now. My son’s favorite restaurant is a Japanese place nearby; he loves both miso or crab soup, shrimp, rice, teriyaki, etc. My daughter’s favorite is Thai–noodles, veggies, satays, dumplings. It’s worth it in the long run. We can go anywhere and they can easily find things to eat.

  4. lstejskal May 30, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    love this post and have felt the same way for a very long time.

    • jollytomato May 30, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

      Yes, it’s funny how it’s an issue we haven’t thought about too much, but now that it’s on our radar, we’re going to be much more conscious about it when we go to a restaurant. Thanks for looking!

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