That’s what Noah said directly to our waiter one evening as Brendon and I were out to dinner. We had gotten him a side of goat cheese polenta, and he scarfed it down. We laughed so hard when he knew to look right at the waiter and ask for more.
I love that through exposing him to a variety of foods, he always tries food and is a great eater. There are of course foods he has tried and not liked, but he eats so many foods and flavors. He even likes a little spice, just like his daddy! It is all about getting them to try a variety of foods AND foods in different combinations EARLY. it’s easier to deal with a little frustration early on in finding out what they like rather than getting frustrated when they only eat 5 things when they are older because those are the only foods they developed tastes for.
So, should we be giving kids a separate menu or should we just be having them eat like we do whether it is at home or at a restaurant?
Food for Thought
Unhealthy, Unbalanced Options
As adults, we know our plates should be filled with a protein, starch, and vegetable or maybe a fruit. Why shouldn’t kids be the same? And, I am not talking about deep fried french fries as a proper starch or vegetable to eat regularly.
The kid’s menu is so heavy on unhealthy starches and fats. They are also loaded with sodium and sugar, and they do not contain a proper amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, they usually come with the option of a drink, and kids typically pick fruit punch or chocolate milk when given the option.
Kids are growing and need a high quantity of nutrients. It frustrates me to hear parents say that the kids will just burn off the calories from their food. And, maybe that is true. But, what is their body getting to fuel them? That’s the most important part. Kids need food to serve their bodies so they can get the proper building blocks.
Teach Kids to Try New Flavors
When kids are young, this is the time to set their palate. If we offer them pasta, mac and cheese, and Nutella or whatever on a regular basis this is what they crave. Then, we get frustrated when they won’t eat anything else. However, for the most part, their options are in our control. So, again, we need to start going through a little frustration in the beginning getting them to find combinations of real food that they like rather than suffering large amounts of frustration later on when they won’t eat many things.
I love that Noah was exposed to everything we ate early. So, he got used to savory, bitter, sour, and even a little spicy. He would try red pepper hummus, goat cheese, seasonings, vegetables, and seafood. He has no anxiety about seeing new foods. However, my step-daughter that lived on mac and cheese was a struggle to get to try new foods. Seeing foods combined in new ways made her instantly assume she wasn’t going to like it because it wasn’t familiar. She didn’t grow up in her early years in the habit of trying new foods, and now, she resists new foods like many other kids that eat pasta and chicken nuggets on a regular basis.
I made a conscious effort to hold off on sweet things (even fruit) for over a year with Noah to build the palate for other foods. I even asked daycare and family to not give him sweets for almost two years because he is so young that he won’t know what he is missing. So, the benefits of him not being exposed to those flavors yet is a bigger benefit than the inconvenience.
Teach Kids to Eat Real Food
“Kid” food is made to be hyper-palatable based on the taste and appearance. To get this way, it is so over processed, it doesn’t even look like the food sources it came from anymore.
When you look at adult options at a restaurant, it is so much easier to identify what you are eating. As I have heard Alton Brown say, “Chickens don’t have fingers.” So, why is there a food product called chicken fingers? Foods like this makes it such a struggle to get kids to eat healthy proteins and real foods. They develop the taste buds to only want fried, salty, and foods covered in cheese.
Kids Menu Options are Filled with Gluten, Conventional Dairy, and Poor Nutrient Density
Making gluten, conventional dairy, and low nutrient foods the main portion of a kid’s meal is not a great option. Now, this isn’t to say that my family doesn’t indulge in dishes when eating out that have these elements. However, overall we chose a mix of options and going out to eat is not a regular habit.
I think it is a better option when eating out to share an indulgent appetizer as a family or a dessert, but you should keep the main entrees quality food options like a steak or seafood dish. This keeps their mindset of healthier eating even if you are still getting more sodium or fat than you would be when eating at home. Plus, they are still getting some nutrition as opposed to an extremely low amount (along with many inflammatory foods) with the kid options.).
If your kid is small, they may only eat a portion of a meal you order, or you can take the leftovers home if you order them a separate entree. My husband and I let my son try some of each of our dishes. Then, it is fun to see what he likes best.