When you go to a restaurant, you might order things like lobster agnolotti, charred barramundi, or tacos al pastor, but if you have young children with you, their options are typically limited to chicken tenders, buttered noodles, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese or a quesadilla. If you’re lucky, baby carrots or applesauce are served on the side.
While the typical kid’s menu items probably delight the picky eaters out there who live off of chicken nuggets and ketchup, parents who want more for their kids and their money are less than delighted. And kids who are adventurous eaters are bored out of their minds. But many chefs are parents themselves, and restaurants, from fast food and fast casual to fine dining, are taking note.
Why Parents Want Healthy Kids Menu Options
- Value. Popping frozen chicken tenders in the oven or stirring up some powdered mac ’n cheese is cheap and easy. No one wants to pay $6.99 for a meal that can inexpensively be thrown together in a few minutes at home.
- Health. Adults tell kids that they should be eating all of the colors of the rainbow, but foods on kids’ menus usually don’t stray too far from brown, neon yellow, and beige. Restaurants can do better.
- Gourmet. Parents want their kids to have food experiences that go beyond the typical basket of bread, cheese, and fries. They want to expose their kids to the foods of the world. Today’s children are much more sophisticated eaters than previous generations.
Healthy Kids Menus Offer Quality Ingredients And More Choices
We are seeing the standard children’s menu options being reimagined with better ingredients and put alongside more grown-up options.
- Mac ‘n cheese…with a twist. Think house-made mac ‘n cheese with aged cheddar and pancetta or fresh goat cheese and butternut squash.
- Gourmet sandwiches. Locally raised ham, cheese, aioli, and artisan bread replace the old ham and cheese on cheap white bread.
- Interactive veggies. Bento boxes and assemble-your-own taco plates like the one at Chipotle make eating veggies more fun.
- Gourmet pasta. Who wants buttered noodles when you can have pasta carbonara, or spaghetti marinara (from a jar) when you can have tagliatelle bolognese?
- Smaller portions of regular menu items. This is really the most obvious option.
These new healthy kids’ menu trend makes the whole family happy. Adults can eat at their favorite restaurants with their kids. Kids can get a healthy, higher-quality meal from a restaurant that treats them like the future adults that they are, and restaurants get loyal customers who come back again and again.
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