don’t order off the kids’ menu
simple tips to ensure the good gets in when eating out with kids!
So you’re going out to eat. Fantastic. And brave! You load the diaper bag with ample distractions, and maybe even pack a travel highchair to clip on the edge of the restaurant table. You are so set.
Or are you?
If where you are headed has a so-called kids’ menu, you may be less set than you feel. If this is your first child, have you ever read a kids’ menu? By and large, they’re very similar: A colorless, bland world of chicken “fingers,” white noodles with butter, apple juice, grilled cheese, and French fries, with the occasional hot dog. It’s not like one such meal will hurt your smallest dinner companion, but chances are these superfood-free offerings clash with how you’re teaching your babe to eat at home. In an effort to be consistent and still eat out—as a special occasion or more frequently—here are some coping techniques to keep the Nutritional Intelligence flowing as you get a meal off from cooking and cleaning. Have fun eating out with kids!
Pack food for your child to eat. Most restaurants won’t mind if parents do this until a toddler gets a little older. (It doesn’t hurt to tip well; someone has to clean up all of the homemade scraps that wind up on the floor.)
Different cultures approach feeding kids differently. In France, for example, ordering off a kids’ menu usually means smaller portions of adult entrees—real food like fish with some greens, with no shortage of flavor. Vegetable noodle soups at Japanese or Chinese restaurants are always kid-friendly. So are things like dumplings (cut into toddler-sized bites) and even vegetable sushi.
ORDER OFF THE ADULT MENU. AND ORDER WELL.
Use a bread plate and share your own entrée, or order your toddler a side or two—think roasted veggies, stewed beans, a whole grain salad—and take home the extras. Remember that your toddler is watching everything you are eating. Model good behavior and try not to order anything you wouldn’t want to share with them—except your wine, of course.
GO EARLY FOR GOOD CHOICES
Stack the cards in your favor by heading out for breakfast or brunch when eating out with kids. There are many ways to successfully order off a brunch menu. Case in point: an omelet filled with colorful vegetables.
Juice is basically just empty calories. Toddlers tend to eat less than babies do, and are always on the run, so it’s important to make sure that they get the nutrients and calories they need from their meals and snacks. Don’t waste it on juice. Give your thirsty little diner a few sips of your water.
CHOOSE ORGANIC WHENEVER POSSIBLE
You’re never going to be in charge of the various ingredients when eating out with kids, which is why it’s a good idea to choose a restaurant with some organic options.
GET FRONT ROW SEATS
If you have a choice to sit near an open kitchen, go for it! The sounds, smells, and activity in a professional kitchen are a delight to all senses—for toddlers and parents alike.