Even at 10-weeks-old Mason loved dining out. He flashed this gummy grin as my dish was served at Jones restaurant in Philadelphia. (Read about the ornery thing he did next!)
Kid’s menus bum me out. The ones that I’ve seen have the same overpriced staples: mac ‘n’ cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, and hot dogs made with white bread or pasta and served with a side of fries. The part that frustrates me most is it’s easy to put a more healthful spin on these dishes by using brown rice or whole-gain bread or pasta, and serving veggies and fruit on the side instead of fries. So why do so many restaurants still offer junk food for kids? Do they assume that kids only like junk food? Why not make child-size portions of healthy, interesting dishes from the adult menu? Promoting this kind of eating only contributes to this country’s childhood obesity problem.
We love taking Mason out, so we’ve come up with ways for him to eat well in restaurants. Here’s how we make it work for us. Any tips to add?
Skip the kid’s menu. Unless the restaurant you go to is an anomaly and the kid’s menu is filled with nutritious foods, order from the adult menu instead.
Make a finger food buffet. Chris and I order several small dishes of foods that we know Mason will like, then we cut it up into bite-size pieces and give him several choices.
Split a dish between two kids. We went out to lunch with our friends and their 15-month-old son Sal last Sunday, and the boys split an order of whole-grain pancakes topped with spiced fruit (from the adult menu). They loved it.
Save leftovers for lunch. When we go to Cafe Henri, a French bistro in our neighborhood, we order crepes from the adult menu for Mason. He eats one for dinner and the other for lunch the next day, at home.
Try new things. Mason’s tried so many things at restaurants that we wouldn’t normally make at home, including lobster ravioli, paella, gazpacho, and foie gras. Watching him enjoy these unexpected foods is fun for everyone!
Splurge smarter. I believe in letting Mason indulge so we order one dessert that the three of us share. Everyone gets a bite of sweet without going overboard.
As an aside, I LOVE these disposable place mats from Target. They’re decorated with fun Sesame Street characters, and they stick right to the table. Mason can eat finger foods without us having to worry about him picking up germs from the bare table.