I recently read an excellent article in the NY Times that interviewed chef Nicola Marzovilla who thinks, "Children’s menus are the death of civilization." He recognizes that “expectations are different at a restaurant where a plate of handmade pasta costs $24. But even if he were running a pizza joint, he would never offer children what he considers a “dumbed down” menu on the side."
While Chef. Marzovilla has 3 children who will eat just about anything, his technique of getting them to do so is not one I necessarily agree with. He essentially forced his children to try new foods.
“There wasn’t a time we didn’t end up trying it,” said Domenico, the 17-year-old. “Sometimes it took longer than others.”
“You know, I’m their parent, I’m not their best friend,” Mr. Marzovilla noted. “I have a duty to mold and teach.”...
“If you don’t ask your children to try things, how will they ever know what they’re capable of?” Mr. Marzovilla said. “And isn’t the same true of us?”
For most parents a gentler approach will probably have better results and lead to a more peaceful mealtime. I read a blog or article several months ago, and cannot find it again. But the writer gave good advice that went something like this, "Parents choose the what and when of food, kids get to choose how much." This means that the parents get to choose what is being served for meals and snacks and at what time. Kids get to choose if they are going to eat what is being served and how much they want to eat of it. Instead of putting food on your child’s plate, let them tell you what they want and how much. This technique also helps prevent over eating and/or wasting food. If kids ask for seconds encourage them to choose a fruit or vegetable instead of seconds on the dinner rolls.
Young children have very sensitive palates, what tastes delicious to an adult can easily overwhelm a child’s taste buds. If your child doesn’t like a food, ask them why? Is it too hot, too crunchy, too bitter or salty? This way you can try preparing the same food in a different fashion that may appeal to them more.
How does this relate to the restaurant world? When eating out instead of instinctively ordering from the children’s menu, have your child order something from the adult menu. If there are leftovers it’s ok. Take them home and save them for a snack or another meal. Or, split a meal with your child. Most restaurant portions are larger than what they average adult needs anyway. Also, many upscale restaurants will probably be happy to offer a smaller portion to accommodate you as well.
Kids already eat too many chicken fingers and French-fries at school, lets make sure that when parent’s and caregivers are around they are eating real food.