Hate children’s menus?
Here’s your chance to create a better one.

by Christina on June 14, 2010

Two weeks ago, we had a raging discussion here on the topic of children’s menus. In a nutshell: They’re loaded with unhealthy food. They’re insulting. They perpetuate the false and damaging notion that “kid food” should be its own distinct (junked-up and deep-fried) category. 

Not the kid menu

Brian Van Etten, the chef at a new restaurant about to open in Rochester, N.Y., took note. He asked for my input on a children’s menu. I offered to pose the question to readers. So here we are. 

The restaurant, called The Owl House, will be making nearly everything from scratch (including condiments), and sourcing as much as possible from local growers and vendors. So there won’t be the usual concerns about overly processed brown and crispy food. But neither Brian nor the restaurant’s two owners have children, so they’re interested in input from people who do. 

The menu has a lot of sandwiches — everything from smoked tofu and avocado to steak and portobello — but there also are soups, salads, snacky starters like housemade pickles and grilled flatbreads, and more elaborate plated meals. 

Brian wants to know: What’s your ideal children’s menu? Would you prefer half-portions of adult meals? Or, he asks: “Are there other standbys that parents would kill to see available for their children? If so, what? Our flatbreads with a basic marinara and cheese? A simple pasta/mac-and-cheese dish?” 

Anything else? Anything you’d really love to see? And anything you’d rather never (ever) see again? 

Brian also offered up thoughts from the other side of the kitchen. Illuminating thoughts. That’s not to say I’m letting restaurants off the hook. Not. At. All. But what Brian said might help explain, just a little, why some restaurants fall into the children’s menu rut. 

For one thing, adding separate scratchmade children’s menu items (vs. the standard packaged fare) means chefs have to add more ingredients, more prep time and more space, risky extras for a potentially small percentage of customers. Also, even with half-portions, many items are portioned in advance, so any unsold half-portions could go to waste. Brian is quick to note that he’s smart about using leftovers creatively rather than throwing them away. But still, it could happen, so for some restaurants that’s a concern. 

Another interesting observation: “I worry that sometimes children don’t truly get half-portions in restaurants, (that) they get something closer to two-thirds. If we did the half-portion route, it would be truly that: exact half-portions, and most likely for exactly half the cost.” So that’s something to keep in mind if your kid is a big eater (but not a big eater). 

What do you think? Here’s your chance to help design a kids’ menu that doesn’t make us cringe. For those of you outside Rochester: Maybe chefs and restaurant owners elsewhere will eavesdrop on the conversation and we can start our own little restaurant food revolution. I can hope, right? 

This post is linked into Real Food Wednesdays, Fight Back Fridays and Vegetarian Foodie Fridays.

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marie June 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

My ideal children’s menu would be half-portions of adult menu items. I would be happy with a few select items from the adult menu (say, a meat, a vegetarian, and a chicken or fish). It wouldn’t have to include the full adult menu. Also, I would be in favor of even a smaller portion of “meat / chicken” and more veggies or fruit.
I don’t need the standbys you mentioned, but those might be a good idea IN ADDITION TO (not instead of) my list above, in order to please more families.
Thank you for the opportunity and for paying attention to this!

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2 Adrienne June 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

My kids love homemade soup – especially vegetable soup made from the Bob’s Red Mill veggie soup mix. It’s not really a mix in the conventional sense – just a bunch of beans, dried peas and such. Then you add water, sauted onion and a variety of veggies. Perhaps a restaurant could have a big pot of soup and offer smaller bowls for kids – along with a 1/2 sandwich or small salad? I feel like whenever I see soup for kids in a restaurant it’s tomato soup – my kids hate tomato soup! Also, please please provide fresh veggies and salads for kids. Once, I actually had to pay $7 at the Cheesecake Factory for a plate of sliced cucumbers. (I haven’t been back there since!) Or, how about a crudite for kids with hummus for dipping? They’d love that, too. Or pesto with whole wheat pasta. If you served these items, my kids would beg to go every day!

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3 Christina June 14, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Love the crudites with hummus, not ranch.

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4 Shannon June 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Ideal children’s menu would be half or third size portions of the adult entrees. I agree with the above, it wouldn’t have to be every single item, but picking the best 6-10 adult items and making them in a smaller scale for kids would be lovely. For sides (since I saw you were doing cafe items), fresh seasonal fruit (not canned oranges or pineapples) or smaller bowls of soup. Both my kids adore soup but the adult portions are often enough for a meal for them and they’d like the other items too.

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5 Christina June 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I don’t think canned fruit is Brian’s thing, but you’re so right about that. Hate it when a restaurant lists “fresh” fruit, but when you inquire, you find out it’s canned or else it’s fresh fruit that has been stored in some kind of nasty-tasting liquid. (What is that? Some kind of preservative?)

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6 WordVixen June 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm

There’s a local family restaurant around here (it’s in Leola/New Holland, PA near Lancaster) that has about 10 of the entrees as half portion options. I don’t remember if they have a kids menu or not, but I fell in love with the ability to order a smaller portion without having to be under 10 or over 60. Something for all restaurants to consider.

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7 Sondi June 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I don’t have kids, but I really enjoy reading your blog because food is important to me. This is so cool – how fantastic that you can use your blog to effect change!! I hope more restaurants get on board with revisiting their kids menus.

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8 Christina June 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Well, thanks so much. I hope so, too!

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9 Angie June 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I’d like to see fruit, fresh of course, and veggies (staemed & raw). My kids love broccoli & green beans & edamame-in-the-pod. It sucks when we go to a restaraunt and there isn’t a green veggie choice for them. A raw veggie plate with things like carrots, cukes, bell peppers, cauliflower, beans, etc with some hummus or balsamic vinegrette for dipping. Home-made french fries with purple potatoes! Kid-sized salads would be great. Free-range chicken & wild-caught fish for sure, along with vegetarian choices. Maybe a home-made white organic cheddar mac & cheese (and a vegan option too!) with the choice of gluten-free pasta. Fruit juices instead of sodas. And speaking of fruit juices, how about a nice variety beyond the standard cranberry juice, oj, & grapefruit juice. Also, it should be taken into consideration any special dietary needs kids may have, ie, food allergies & sensitivities tothings like dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, soy, food dyes, etc. I can’t wait to go here! It’s so great that the chef is asking for suggestions! Thanks Brian for thinking of our kids!

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10 Lisa June 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I love the idea of a raw veggie plate with hummus. Maybe a build your own veggie plate would be nice. When I ask my patients what vegetables they like, it seems like the majority of kids only list 1 or 2. So maybe giving them the choice of what veggies are on the platter (even if it’s all the same one) . . . or even better yet, something like: pick 2 vegetables you like, and 1 you’ve never tried. So to encourage trying new foods.

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11 Jen June 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I agree Angie! I especially like your idea for options for kids with food allergies, since my 3 year old daughter has many. Gluten free pastas are a wonderful idea, as are fresh steamed veggies made WITHOUT butter or cheese or the like, fresh vegies with dipping sauces, smaller baked potatoes, grilled fish, grilled chicken, turkey burgers with sweet potato fries (a fave of my kids), a fruit plate. I agree with juice as an option for drink, as well as the standard of water. I like the idea of smaller portions. We just ate at an excellent restaurant Sunday w/the kids, and to accomodate my dd’s allergies they made her grilled catfish, a baked potato, (both seasoned only w/freshly ground sea salt) and a Mott’s sugar free applesauce -all of which she devoured and loved. I think that restaurants should be willing to do things like that at kids meal prices for their customers.

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12 Melodie June 15, 2010 at 12:14 am

How about whole wheat pasta with a simple yummy and flavourful tomato sauce with veggie sticks and dip on the side and the option of adding chick peas or some kind of meat to it? Or cheese and bean quesadillas with salsa and sour cream and veggie sticks and dip. Pasta and pesto sauce. Smaller portions of the more simple adult dishes. In my experience, kids don’t like to have a lot of “stuff” in their sauces. When there are lumps and bumps they will get picked out. I blend veggies into my tomato sauces to make sure they are getting more than just tomatoes but I understand as a restaurant you need to save money too. The ideas above are great too.

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13 Tara June 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I like these ideas. I hate when i order mac&cheese for my kids and it is stale Kraft! Make it home-made with wheat pasta and real cheese, even if it’s just Parmesan sprinkled on! And anything in a tortilla or wrap works…Ditto with things you can dip. How about small turkey burger sliders? Here’s a good one – easy, too: Grilled cheese with cheddar or Swiss (NOT American) and wheat (not white) bread. It doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be fancy or too original for kids, or they won’t want it anyway. But it would be so easy to make it a little healthier. I know I’d feel better about taking my kids to a restaurant that had some healthier options. Also, kids always want the fries, so instead or “fries OR applesauce OR carrot sticks” can it just be a smaller portion of fries and a scoop of applesauce or a couple carrot sticks?

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14 Christina June 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Better yet: baked sweet-potato fries. No trans fats and a nutritional boost, too.

I also like the idea of a couple of small sides. There used to be a great restaurant called Organic Alley that served banana chips and carrot sticks (if I recall correctly) with all its sandwiches.

I like what people are suggesting about a combination of simpler plain meals and half-portions of adult meals. Some kids prefer the simpler items, but other kids like more adventurous fare. (Just like adults!)

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15 Becca June 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I love the idea of a healthy kids menu! I think that half-portions of a few select entrees is a great idea, but I also love his suggestion of a flatbread with a basic marinara and cheese or a simple pasta/mac-and-cheese dish. I have one child that eats anything and would love the half-portion of the adult meal, and another incredibly picky eater that wants everything plain, plain, plain. I know there are many kids like him, so I really like the idea of offering both mini-adult meals and plain non-adventuresome meals. Plain can still be healthy, which is why I really like his suggestions.

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16 Sam G June 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I have the same situation. One fantastically adventuresome gal and one impossibly picky guy. So, my tendency is to look over every menu and if the ingredient is listed somewhere in the regular menu, i ask for a small amount for my son. My daughter usually shares with me if she doesn’t get her own. Perhaps offer any adult entree (that makes sense, obviously 1/2 a whole fish isn’t appealing) as 1/2 portion and add a statement “Will accommodate children to their preference with any ingredients you see on the menu” — and a price…I can’t imagine that it would be complicated. Like if you offer burgers, offer in different sizes- the slider idea is a good one, they seem really popular right now. I myself appreciate a burger that isn’t 1/2 lb. but 1/3 lb. whatever the choices I hope to try out this new restaurant!!! Keep us posted Chris!

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17 Lisa June 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I don’t have any children of my own, so I don’t have first hand, day-in day-out experience as to what kids want. However, as a diabetes nurse educator, I know and see that obesity and type 2 diabetes are on the rise in kids . . . which is so sad. Some statistics say that 1 out of 3 kids born in the year 2000, will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.
I really believe that a HUGE part of the problem, is that kids don’t know what healthy eating is. Many don’t know, or even think about, where their food comes from. Heck, most adults don’t – how can we expect our kids to. Most kids meal menu’s are horrendous – hugely processed, high fat/trans fats, no fiber, and HUGE portions. And I think the fact that most restaurants have completely separate kids menus with these unhealthy options sends the wrong message; Somehow saying that it’s okay for kids to eat these foods – because they’re kids.
-I think half portions of the regular menu options is a great idea – not only for kids, but adults too.
-It’s awesome that The Owl House is really making an effort to serve whole foods, that are sourced locally. It would be awesome if you could somehow teach this to the kids; Teach them where they’re food comes from – maybe have paper placements that have different activities teaching these points. And the fact that (I think) they will have herbs and some vegetables growing out on the patio is awesome, and will be a great reinforcement and teachable moment.
-Definitely, you need to make the options appealing to kids; And what you’re doing here, is a great way to find out what the kids want.
- In general, this is what we need to encourage from a health perspective: more vegetables, more fruits, more whole grains, more nuts/seeds/legumes AND less processed foods, and smaller portions

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18 Christina June 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm

That’s a great idea about using a children’s menu to teach kids about locally sourced and sustainable food. Love that.

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19 Denise June 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

My kids love plain pasta or pasta with pesto sauce. We often order plain pasta at restaurants. It’s always annoying that pasta never comes with side dishes. It would be great if kid meals would come with a vegetable and a fruit. Baked sweet potato or squash would be awesome as veggies and any kind of in season fruit will do the trick!

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20 Monica Devine-Haley June 15, 2010 at 9:26 pm

First of all – I am SO excited to be able to give input on this. My children are vegetarian so we always run into trouble eating out (and we can’t wait to come to the Owl House!). I find that even in my house the vegetarian food can be too highly spiced or intense for my children. Simple seems to work best for kids, smaller veggie burgers (I have a good homemade recipe if the Owl House wants it, its a lentil/tofu/oat base sweetened with carrots), whole wheat pasta, healthy pizza, raw veggies + hummus,and fruit. Soup is a big winner with us too. A really cool thing would be a “ploughman’s feast/lunch” – a platter of cheese, bread, fruit/veggies, dips, applesauce, nuts, and a special treat. That way you can offer things that are in the kitchen already and families can customize from a list. Even though I enjoy trying something new when I am out, I find that my kids are content to watch me for now – but exposing them to healthy creative food is nevertheless really important. Thank you!

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21 Christina June 15, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I love the ploughman’s feast idea. Not only is that an ingenious way to use what’s already on hand, but kids like the idea of picking and choosing their own food, and they often want a little of this, a little of that. We do this a lot at home and for our daughter’s school lunches, and she loves it.

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22 Robin June 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I think two tiers of portion sizes would be very helpful: A smaller portion for young (or less hungry) children, and a larger portion for the 8-12 year olds. In my experience, kids menus usually provide too much food for the little children, but leave a 10 year old still hungry.

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23 Karl MacPhee June 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

This is a great discussion. Every time I go to a restaurant, I don’t see anything that I want to feed my kids because it is usually mac and cheese or some kind of sandwich that we don’t eat. This is what food in our house looks like, but don’t know how the restaurants would manage something like this…just wanted to suggest something different…

http://karlmacphee.com/2010/05/31/dinner-for-kids-macphee-style/

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24 Karl MacPhee June 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm
25 Christina June 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Karl, your meals look a lot like what we call “assortment platters” in our house. (I really need a new term for that.) And I think they’re just the sort of “ploughman’s feasts” that Monica suggested above. I don’t know how practical these would be in a restaurant (Brian will weigh in on our comments next week), but I really like this idea.

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26 kristi June 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm

There’s a great kid-friendly cafe in Wisconsin. The owners of The Owl House might want to check out their menu for inspiration:

http://www.beansproutscafe.com/images/beansproutsmenu.pdf

Also, I agree with the fresh veggies and hummus option. My three-year-old loves this.

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27 Christina June 21, 2010 at 11:17 am

That is a great menu. Love the various portion sizes, and the flexibility in pairing main dishes/sides and appetizers. The food looks varied and wholesome, and I really like how the menu specifies gruyere instead of the default processed cheese.

The menu is a little frenetic, which makes me fear the restaurant is, too (like maybe the place is a little too “kid-friendly”?). But I’d be all over that place if I lived there.

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28 chanelle June 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I love this idea! Half size portions would be great. We absolutely need to teach our children to eat real food at a young age and train them for life. Kudos to you and the restaurant for being open to something different!

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29 Dani June 16, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Wow, I love that Brian is asking for suggestions! I almost laughed at the $7 for a plate of cucumbers at Cheesecake Factory; fact is, even their lunch portions are more than TWO people should eat in any one sitting!

I do like the idea of two-tiered smaller portion sizes, and especially not limiting the age-ranges (I don’t know if The Owl House will be serving moderate portions to begin with?). As mentioned, even when ordering half-portions of some dishes, it’s still too much food! I do appreciate the thought process of “half portions, half price,” because frequently, the half portion will only be 10-20% less than the full-portioned entree item.

Regarding specific menu suggestions, the plain items will be critical for families with picky eaters. My mom said that she could only take me to eat at a place that served either a chicken drumstick or a taco, because I pretty much wouldn’t eat anything else. That being said, of course fried chicken isn’t usually a healthy option. So I would suggest chicken tenders (did they not even HAVE those when I was a kid?), breaded in breadcrumbs from soured/soaked or sprouted bread, and baked. They could be breaded and prepared ahead of time, and portioned out one by one. I also LOVE the idea of a variety and choice of sides–some kids won’t eat carrots, and others won’t touch celery, etc., but a variety on each plate will get something nutritious into them! Edamame is FUN for most kids, and the idea of a “build-your-own” relish tray of sorts would be a huge hit. Also, a house-made ranch-style dressing made of fresh dairy kefir might be just the ticket if kids are just dying for Ranch dressing–our middle daughter puts it on everything, including spaghetti!

I think there are some great suggestions here, and agree that there should be some smaller plates of the regular menu fare, as well as a few well-chosen “customizable” items for those pickier eaters.

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30 Tina Kolberg June 16, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I wanted to pipe in that my two kids would also enjoy fresh fruit and steamed vegetables (no sauce), soups, salads, and whole wheat noodle dishes. Moosewood in Ithaca has a great kids’ menu item: a hunk of wonderful whole wheat bread du jour, a little cup of terrific nut butter, and a plateful of fresh fruit. My daughter was in heaven. She is vegan and son is vegetarian, so options, labeling, and knowledgeable staff are most welcome.

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31 margaret June 17, 2010 at 8:05 am

(organic) raw veggies for sure, and any homemade dip. Chunks of cheese, slice of fresh bread, side of pasta…all delicious and good-for-you. Or, make your own pizza…roll out the dough and add a few of their favorite (healthy) toppings like tomatoes, peppers…we do this at home…. and place small sides of toppings at the table for the kids to build. Toss in some ice cream with fruit in season for dessert.

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32 Kathy at Wellness Roadtrip June 18, 2010 at 11:52 am

I just found you from Food Renegade…and sister you speak my language. I work with families trying to get them to understand the importance of real foods for their children. I am always amazed at how little people know about food.

I’m a big fan of the half portion. My ten year old will eat anything off a menu. He even ordered octopus on his tenth birthday just to try it. We don’t eat out a lot but when we do we encouage our children to order something different. One of our favorite places to go is a tapas restaurant. We can order a bunch of things and let everyone try a little.

Today my blog is about inspiring kids to cook. I think cooking is the best way for them to get interested in food. Thanks for raising the question.

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33 Milehimama June 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I love the idea of 1/3 portion size of adult meals. Also, my children would be enchanted if they got a plate of pasta and the waitress did the spinny-cheese-grater thingy.

Make your own type dishes would be fun and popular. A problem we sometimes have eating out is that the kids scarf their food, and are done (and bored) before the adults are ready to go. What if kids could stack their own appetizers (toast point, veggie, spread?) or even a healthy version of those pizza lunchables.

Finger foods are excellent – snap peas, green beans, etc. with a dip.

And I would be happy to never, ever see a Chicken Strip again.

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34 Nipa June 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Chris, I think you’re brilliant to be able to team up with a restaurant and put words into action!

I hope the focus remains on kid-friendly food and not half-plates that are kids menu foods in disguise. So often I find a handful of items that I would like to try but just can’t eat more than one. I like the idea of the ploughman’s platter (I call it the bento box meal where my kids can choose any grain, fruit or vegetable, and protein that we have on hand) but I hope it is done in a way so that it would appeal to adults too.

I like the flatbread pizza, the mac ‘n’ cheese, soups (my son loves lentil soup) and whole wheat pasta with sauce ideas as most adults would enjoy those too. How about a simple grilled chicken with broccoli and roasted potatoes (or baked fries)? A small plate of salmon with optional sides (raw vegetables and rice, pasta or rolls). Tofu, vegetables and noodles? Chicken and rice (or noodle) soup?

I know they can’t be all things to all people but if Brian could accommodate Celiacs (i.e. meals that are gluten-free) we’d be regulars! Right, most eateries that have gluten-free options are pizza places, and chains which have menus with disclaimers (“we can’t guarantee that there won’t be cross contamination”) or staff that are not well-trained. We’ve had better luck at restaurants (often Asian or Mexican) where we’ve been able to speak to the chef and they’ve offered to use separate pans and “clean” ingredients (i.e. no pre-made sauces).

Can’t wait to see the final menu!
Nipa

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35 Christina June 21, 2010 at 11:00 am

We use a bento box for school lunches, but I never thought to call it that at home. I should, though, since the items are the same whether they’re on a single plate or in a compartmentalized box. And that’s got a better ring to it than “assortment platter,” which sounds like something on a ’70s buffet.

My daughter reminded me that we’ve also called these meals “snacky platters” and “sampler platters.” But enough with the lingo. What I find fascinating is that so many of us and our kids would find this sort of meal appealing in restaurants. It’s such a simple concept, but so rare. (Love the Moosewood bread/nut butter/fruit combo that Tina mentioned.)

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36 Rachel Wisdom June 20, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Any kind of pasta dish, with something green thrown in (spinach, kale, broccoli, peas, whatever), chili, salmon, pesto, in-season fruit.

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37 Cordelia June 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

I like the half size portion ideas. I think a reduced menu would be ok. 1/2 sandwich, 1 side and some crackers or something with a drink. There is no reason for a kid to eat entirely different food than the adults. You can always throw in PB&J for the picky kids with all natural PB of course!

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38 Amy June 29, 2010 at 11:23 am

PLEASE please please something, ANYTHING, not based on the ‘wheat and dairy variation of a theme’ thing. My son is intolerant of both, and in 95% of restaurants, even good ones, there is not a single thing he can eat on the kid menu.

Half a baked regular or sweet potato (better yet, wee little tiny whole ones), steamed broccoli, and a grilled meat. Fruit and veggie platter. A cute little bento box where you get 4 compartments + a side soup, and kiddos can choose from a list. (this would get rid of the waste issue, since you could make it stuff that comes out of the big bowls on the line) Kid salad (lots of kids love the “evil” iceburg chopped and mixed with finely chopped veggies and other lettuces).

Honestly, our kids eat what we do, because that is what we feed them. Both of them will literally jump up and down with joy if we tell them we are going out for Thai, Indian food, or sushi. You really don’t need a kid’s menu, just something with smaller portions. People that demand stereotypical kid fare are probably not going to frequent a place where everything comes in as actual whole food.

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39 Cyndi June 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Thank you for doing this. I hate most kid’s menus and usually ignore them. Often they aren’t even the same style of foods that are on the real menu. And what is it with the mac and cheese? My child (age 5) is allergic to eggs, dairy, and gluten and every kids menu item pretty much is white refined wheat and tons of cheese. Many times there aren’t even vegetables, just a side of white refined grains or potatoes (peeled and starchy, doesn’t count as a veggie). Even without allergies i wouldn’t want her to eat that. Although she has tastes that might not match mine or her dad’s, my daughter loves to go out to dinner so she can eat what we eat, not something we could have bought from the boxed or frozen section of any supermarket.

So please offer 1/2 size versions of regular meals. Or versions with fewer sides, if that is what bulks up a meal for you. And why limit it to kids? Seniors or not too hungry adults might want them too.

Many kids prefer simpler foods so an option of sauces on the side or the chance to pick the side dishes is appreciated. And it would be nice to have some very simple things for really small kids (like ages 2 and under), maybe a tasting plate with nothing too hard to chew.

Oh and please give children their own menus, even if they can’t read, and real glasses to drink out of. I can’t stand styrofoam but it seems most restaurants insist on giving my daughter water in those environmental disasters. When she was younger she would always spill them because she was used to real glasses and would squeeze the fake ones too hard. But most places don’t even have small glass glasses for water. A juice glass or mixed drink glass is perfect. Though you can’t go wrong with a few double-handled metal cups for the real little ones (or the kids who aren’t so little but have never been taught to use real glasses).

Ditto on other serviceware. Please use real plates and flatware, not plastic or paper. Offering teaspoons instead of soup spoons and having smaller forks is a nice touch for kids with tiny hands. If you buy boosters, test them out. Most are really dangerous and just slip or fall over.

Again, thanks so much for this. Most restaurants don’t seem to put any thought into feeding children. They either ignore the issue (with nothing more than an old high chair to offer and rolled eyes at any dropped food) or treat kids like everything has to be “fun” and junky. Eating out should be enjoyable. Not the same thing.

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40 Pat June 30, 2010 at 8:14 am

I love this idea! My children are grown now, but when they were little I would have loved a restaurant that served small portions of the adult meals. After all, that’s what they got at home — there’s no need to perpetuate the myth that kids’ food should be different from what the adults eat.

I also like the suggestions for some raw veggies with hummus for dipping. A restaurant that gave kids some cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and green beans to nibble on while waiting for their meals would get high marks from many parents.

When does this restaurant open? : )

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41 Martha July 1, 2010 at 9:38 am

Based on my 2-year-old’s eating habits, I’d suggest a mix’n'match kids menu with 4 choices: main, side, dip, and fruit or veg. Some children eat tons of starch and only a little protein, others the opposite. So letting them choose which is the main and which is the side would be excellent.

Here are some examples of what my child would love for a main or side: brown rice, baked/grilled meat/fish, 1/2 baked sweet potato, baked fries, refried beans, corn chips (reduced salt), plain yogurt, plain noodles (pasta sauce or cheese opt.), whole wheat bread with butter (nat. pb and/or jam opt). For the fruit or veg: steamed broccoli, thin raw carrot sticks, an apple, a banana, or a mandarin. For dips: sour cream, basic guacamole, balsamic dressing, ketchup, pesto.

Reasonable pricing rather than conventional marked-up a-la-carte pricing for plain “adult” foods like grilled chicken or baked sweet potato would be amazing to see. Also, having kid’s foods unsalted and uncheesed and letting them see it sprinkled on (or not) gives young children and their parents so much more excitement and choice respectively. Thanks for the opportunity to give input!

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42 Christina July 2, 2010 at 4:38 am

Thanks, everyone, for the additional comments about children’s menus. I just posted a follow-up where Brian (the chef) weighs in. He tells us what he thought of our ideas. And what he’s going to feed our kids. Check it out here.

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43 Karina July 8, 2011 at 12:02 am

I just found this discussion–I missed it last year–and wanted to add my two cents:

On the 4th of July, we went out to eat. I gave my daughter (age 4) the option to get a hot dog, which she loves, and which we rarely eat. It came in a beach pail (very cool!), and they offered her a side: chips, or an apple.

She did NOT want the chips. She happily went to the cooler and found a good red apple, and ate that–before the hot dog.

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44 Christina July 17, 2011 at 12:51 am

Love stories like this, Karina. Give kids knowledge, ownership and some credit, and it’s amazing how often they’ll make the smart choice.

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45 Marie July 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I just read that a bunch of restaurants “upgraded” their children’s menus. From what I read, it looks like they have to follow a list of criteria, which means fewer calories, sodium, trans fats and sugar. Though it is not where I would hope the restaurants would be, it is at least a step in the right direction and offers better choices (better being relative) to those families who eat at Burger King, Denny’s, etc.
Here is the link for anyone who is interested. The program is called Kids Live Well.
http://www.restaurant.org/foodhealthyliving/kidslivewell/

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46 Christina July 18, 2011 at 11:29 am

Marie, yes, I’ve been reading about this, too, thanks. While I’m in favor of anything that leads to better food, I have to say this feels like a marketing gimmick. I mean, it’s not like they’re also improving their adult meals… But time will tell!

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47 Mary September 25, 2012 at 8:30 am

Just discovered you blog via Fed Up With Lunch. When we travel in the UK I’m always impressed that most eateries offer half portions of adult entrees for kids – in addition to a typical kids’ menu. The flexibility gives you so much more choice. My kids have curious palates – I’m lucky – so the options were endless. So many restaurants could offer this, it’s easy and could be profitable. Right now I don’t think restaurants see kids meals as money making when they could be if they were better.

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