Eating With Kids at a Restaurant


By: , – Robin Miller, Food Network’s Healthy Eats
  :  12 comments   :  9,317 Views

I’m sure you think I cook dinner every night but, the truth is, I eat out with my boys a decent amount. Sometimes it’s because we head straight from school to soccer to chess and there’s no time to run home. Other times, when I’ve been testing recipes and cooking all day, I just want someone else to serve the food. Plus, I love games and we always play something while we wait for the meal: Scrabble, Blink, Spot It, Uno, hangman, tic-tac-toe or word search. This week, I’m traveling with my buddies and we made up a game – we created tee pees with our silverware while waiting for breakfast!
Food-wise, my kids love everything but eating out with picky eaters can be daunting. My boys didn’t start out with open minds and palates, but I used a few tricks to get them started and here they are: 

The best choices on the children’s menu are typically the following:
  • Pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese
  • Plain pasta with a little butter and parmesan cheese
  • Individual pizzas
  • Grilled burgers with cheese, lettuce and tomato
  • Quesadillas, with or without chicken
  • Salads with carrots, cucumber cherry tomatoes and dressing
  • Grilled or roasted chicken breast or chicken skewers with barbecue dipping sauce
  • Baked and roasted potatoes
  • Fresh fruit
  • Steamed seasonal vegetables
  • Don’t feel obligated to stick to the children’s menu just because you have little ones. If your kids like grilled chicken and the children’s choice is fried fingers, order an adult meal (bring leftovers home if you have to).
  • Swap salads and steamed/sautéed veggies for French fries. My kids always ask for broccoli over fries because I did that from day one. Sweet potato fries are a better choice if they “fight you” on the fry thing. Roasted potatoes are even better.
Click here for more tips on eating with kids at a restaurant from Food Network.

More from Food Network: What tips work for your family when eating at a restaurant? What makes a restaurant family friendly?

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  • 12
    This is a way to cater to their pickiness, not eat out and encourage other foods. This article should not be sent through the Sparkpeople e-mails as an appropriate article to read. - 10/20/2012   5:38:42 PM
  • 11
    I also thought this was going to be about kid's behavior in restaurants. When I grew up I the only places that had kids' menus were family-oriented restaurants. So, often we ate off the adult menu, that was it. Of course, at home we ate what my mom made, that was it - and she always cooked very healthy meals.
    When we were out at restaurants there was no question about how we had to behave - no horsing around, no yelling, shouting, etc. Of course, we never even thought about doing those things. Now, as far as the suggestions in this article about "entertaining" kids before the meal arrives, I think the author gives some great alternative ideas to having kids play with hand-held toys. What a great idea it is to play educational games! Not only are you making this an educational adventure but you are also interacting with your child and showing him/her how much you care. Of course, a conversation with your child is also a great idea, and very important. - 10/12/2012   9:46:25 AM
    Your children do not choose broccoli over fries because you did that from day one.... They do so because they like broccoli and are not picky eaters. I have 1 child that would also pick the broccoli, but I also have a picky eater w/ super sensitive tastes that would not allow the broccoli on his side of the table.. - 10/11/2012   10:24:36 AM
  • 9
    Guess I missed the direction of the article as well.

    I always found that kids have the most trouble WAITING for their food to arrive. ...... A few oyster crackers work miracles. - 10/11/2012   8:59:05 AM
  • 8
    LOL From the title I was ready for a discussion of manners and keeping the volume down instead of the child's menu! Guess that tells where my mind was at... - 10/11/2012   6:29:19 AM
  • 7
    When I was a kid (about 6 years old), my parents were able to take me to restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz in London, because I knew how to behave in a restaurant. It never would have occurred to them to need to entertain me with games or books. Conversation was the rule of the table. Preferably intelligent conversation. It horrifies me to see kids playing on hand held devices at the table. And children's menus were never an option! If I didn't want anything on the menu, then I didn't eat. I was encouraged to try new things and as a result, I can go anywhere in the world and try whatever the local food is, without having to rely on pasta, burgers and pizza. If you teach kids how to behave properly in a restaurant, they will behave that way. If they can't, then limit their exposure to the public to Chucky Cheese! - 10/11/2012   6:09:19 AM
  • 6
    I don't think most children appreciate going to a "nice" restaurant, so I always took mine to a buffet, and saved going to a "nice" place for the adults to enjoy. - 10/11/2012   12:30:15 AM
  • 5
    I agree, I am so often annoyed by children who are "expressing themselves" at restaurants because their parents refuse to discipline them. Teach them to respect others and behave or don't bring them to a restaurant. - 10/10/2012   11:00:28 PM
  • 4
    This is a list of food your kids like not tips on how to get them to eat if they don't like too. You started off with "my kids love everything"! But what about parents that have kids that refuse most anything. - 10/10/2012   4:32:21 PM
    I consider a restaurant family friendly if it has a children's menu and a short (or no) wait time! - 10/10/2012   2:43:55 PM
  • 2
    Great article... but, excuse me.... why would you be teaching your children that cutlery/silverware are toys? Certainly there are other, quiet table games that you can play that would not annoy other restaurant patrons, wait staff and restaurant management! - 10/10/2012   2:16:08 PM

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