I love to eat out – this should come as a surprise to no one. Most of the time, though, I am not an intrepid foodie plowing through the streets of New York City. Most of the time, I’m an intrepid mommy plowing through the streets of New Jersey trying to get my 2 1/2 year old son fed. The more I try to do that, the more frustrated I have become.
As much as I would love to say that I’m raising a little mini-me foodie who orders lamb and Brussels sprouts from the adult menu – my son is picky. He likes dairy, he likes fruit, and that’s about it.
When we walk into a restaurant they hand my son a paper place mat with the children’s menu and a couple of crayons. Sometimes the crayons are the healthiest option. It’s the same five fatty entrees, very little in the way of fresh fruits and veggies and cute little pictures of ice cream sundaes and milkshakes to tempt them (Or they call it a smoothie and load it with sugar and artificial things). This leaves me the option of either a grilled cheese sandwich or mac and cheese, and a side of grapes or apples if I’m lucky. It just really steams me that with some easy, cheap changes we could be feeding our children much healthier and they would be happier too.
Some places are really trying, but they are getting some fundamentals wrong. For example, if I’m going to eat at a chain, I really love Uno’s. You may not know this but they have one of the healthiest and delicious menus for adults out there for a chain restaurant. Apparently, they wanted to clean up their image from being a place that serves drippy deep dish heart attack pizzas, (and they still do that if that’s your thing), so now they have great salads, great wraps and tons of whole grains and veggies. They really tried with some of their kid’s menu too – I love the baked chicken nuggets shaped like animals but my son doesn’t (his fault, not theirs). I can’t even lure him with the prospect of biting their little heads off. So the other day I ordered their kids mac and cheese only to find out that they make their kids mac and cheese with cheddar and ALFREDO SAUCE and these big thick curly noodles. Tasty for me? Sure, but let me tell you something Uno’s and it was a hard truth for me to face – KIDS LIKE KRAFT MAC AND CHEESE IN THE BOX! I couldn’t believe it either but it’s true. They don’t like fancy, they don’t like goopy. They want those tiny straight noodles and the dry cheese powder. They want an ice cube thrown in there so it’s watery and tepid. I used to sneer when places served this on their kids menu but now I know the truth – they knew something I didn’t and those are the places my son wants to go back to. Sigh.
Besides – who needs all that extra fat from alfredo? Who’s idea was that?
The sad thing is that Uno’s is one of the best examples. I’ve given this some thought and if I were to open a restaurant (never going to happen – it would keep me too busy to eat at other restaurants), this would be my kid’s menu:
Kraft WHOLE WHEAT mac and cheese (yes, they make it – otherwise use Annie’s)
Almond butter and fruit spread on whole wheat bread (cut into quarters – this is crucial)
Baked chicken nuggets with honey mustard or barbecue sauce for dipping (no, my son won’t eat it – but others will)
Grilled cheese on whole wheat bread with thin sliced mushrooms or tomato (again – cut into quarters)
Nitrite-free hot dog with low sugar ketchup
Bowl of cheerios with sliced banana and 2 percent milk (desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures)
Fruit salad (and shame on you, Red Robin, for mixing yours with sugary strawberry syrup – not necessary)
Thin sliced raw veggies: carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc. (No, my son won’t eat it, but I would order it and keep trying)
Yogurt with whole grain graham crackers
Steamed baby veggies with optional cheese sauce
Pirate’s Booty (you just can’t go wrong with Pirate’s Booty)
Baked oven fries (Is it too much to hope you use more than just potatoes? That’s ok, just bake them.)
2 percent white milk
2 percent strawberry milk (low sugar – they have it)
fruit/veggie mixed juice boxes
smoothie (Just made with frozen fruit, yogurt, juice and would a handful of kale kill you? It’s really good in there and my son loves it. Also, please list your ingredients.)
Do kids need a dessert menu? I don’t know – if we are getting dessert we could share with our kids but if you must…..
Low fat ice cream (one scoop)
Whole grain cookie
I think most of this is really doable. I just can’t be the only parent out there who feels this way – I’m not trying to change the world, just my son’s eating habits. One day I do want him to order the lamb and the Brussels sprouts, but in the meantime, I want him to grow up healthy and happy.
Oh yea – could you get rid of the bowl of lollipops at the register? It’s just causing us stress.
There – I’m off my soap box now. I’m going to go eat some chocolate.