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OWTK’s Helpful Ideas – #3

OWTK’s Helpful Ideas #3 – Improving Restaurant Kid’s Menus

As much as I love cooking, I luuuuuv dining out.  There is, after all, only so much I can do in my kitchen:  Pan sauces, sorta.  Succulent scallops, iffy.  Apple cider doughnut bread pudding, not a chance.  Plus, I’m always up for a night away from doing the dishes thus saving my dry and cracked hands from a night of abuse.

But I’ve got a major beef with 99% of all restaurants and I’ve got a short lil’ message for them: YOUR KID’S MENU SUCKS.

Save for our local micro-brew chain Iron Hill, who’s delightful children’s menu is stocked with actual some meals and interesting sides, y’all got the same shit: Chicken Fingers & Fries, Pizza & Fries, Cheeseburger & Fries, Mac-n-Cheese, Spaghetti (always offered in a butter sauce…BUTTER for heaven’s sake!).  There’s rarely a single green or orange item to be found (unless you count the nasty whiz on the macaroni, which I’m not).

Yet every day we hear about how fat kids are.  How lazy kids are.  How, when it comes to food, picky kids are.  Enough already!  Something simple can be done and it starts in restaurants.  Okay fine, it really should start in the home but that’s a more complex, socioeconomic problem.  One that an OWTK Helpful Idea might not be able to tackle.  Instead, I offer this:

Dear Restaurant Owner: serve a few ounces of steamed carrots with those chicken fingers & fries (or serve ’em raw with ranch dressing on the side), mix into the mac-n-cheese some peas and 2 ounces of diced grilled chicken.  And how about a mini side salad with the pizza – some shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, a crouton or two (just for fun)?  Also, if you’ve got something you are known for, something your area produces in spades, make a smaller portion and offer it on the kid’s menu.  Nothing quite so idiotic as walking into a seafood restaurant and seeing not a single item from the sea on the kid’s menu.

I propose that each and every restaurant kid’s meal have a serving of fruit, veggies and a protein.  This is easily accomplished, not expensive (to fund this plan, drop the free ice cream – kids don’t need a sundae or an ice cream sandwich every single time they dine out), and kids will eat it.  I’m talking about applesauce, mandarin oranges (in their own juice, not corn syrup), sliced apples & peanut butter, and watermelon slices.  I’m talking about mini crab cakes (as eyes) with some drizzling thousand island dressing (as a smiling mouth), shrimp arranged in a funny way on the plate, green beans in the shape of a child’s 1st name or initials – make good food fun and available to our children!  It’s like I preach to my children about everything: think & try harder. How much we can achieve following that simple credo!

So restaurant owners and chefs, are you up to it?  Are you ready to start challenging kids and their parents to diversify their palates and plates?  Are you ready to make the world a tiny bit better a place?  I am.

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  1. Pingback: Dad's Losing It » Put An End to Crappy Kid’s Menus

  2. YES!!!

    The most disappointing thing about Disney is that they offer a discounted kids’ meal plan & the offered meals are the same at every. single. restaurant- right down to the plate it’s served on. Nuggets, spaghetti, burger or pizza. My 10yo foodie has not eaten a nugget since, and I have never felt such gut-wrenching guilt as when he looked at me tearfully after ordering and asked, “Why would I want a cheeseburger at a French restaurant?”

    Of all places, Disney (EPCOT!) has an opportunity to encourage kids to try new, healthy foods; would love to see them step up & start a trend.

    Great post, thx.

  3. Smart thinking Jeff. I’d also like better training of the wait staff.

    It’s tough when we order “JUST the chicken fingers please hint hint” and the waiter comes back with a wink in the kids’ direction, saying, “you’d like fries with that too, I bet.”

    No we would not like fries with that. But thanks for letting them know that that’s an option!

  4. Seriously! The wait staff, if too young, usually hasn’t a clue about family dining. It’s like, “hey genius, buddying up to the 4-year old with side o’ fries is NOT the way to a bigger tip!”

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  6. We try really hard not to eat out because restaurants have enough trouble providing healthy options for adults, why would we expect it to be any different for the kids?

    The only place we ever had a good kids menu out was at Weber Grill. The dinner itself was typical Mac & cheese, chicken fingers etc…but the sides were generous portions of fruit & vegetables.

  7. Well, at least that is something! If you as a restaurant cannot or are unwilling to alter the entire kid’s menu, at least offer side dishes that are smart foods. I’ve had Weber Grill’s grilled corn on the cob once – yum!

  8. I completely agree.

    However, since many restaurants aren’t up to this task, I sometimes share my marginally healthier, generously portioned adult meal with my kids, or order something off of the adult menu they like and split it between them.

  9. same here! we order off of the kid’s menu maybe 10% of the time when dining out. instead we too allow the girls to split an adult entree (if they can agree on one) or share our meals. just last weekend, when out with my folks, the Mouse shared a salad, flatbread pizza and some shrimp & corn chowder soup. that’s a win-win situation: it’s cheaper (no extra costs for the kids) and healthier for everyone (both the food itself vs. kid’s menu choices and the fact that you will be eating less since you’re sharing)

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