Beyond Mac & Cheese

Yesterday, I brought attention to Hyatt Hotels new "For Kids By Kids" menu which provides kids with fun, healthy meal choices when traveling.  Now I'm wishing every restaurant would become as conscious. 

If you look at the dietary guidelines for American boys ages 4-8, you'll see they should be getting about 1,200-2,000 calories a day. Now consider that the kid’s mini cheeseburger plate at Applebee’s has 740 calories. Get them the kids hot fudge sundae for dessert (350 calories) and in one meal, and they’ve almost hit their days’ worth. According to Parent Educator, Shelley Reicher-Lawrence, “It's the job of parents to not only to model healthy food choices but to help children be capable, at an early age, of making nutritionally good choices themselves.”

Reicher-Lawrence asks why “as adults we often ask restaurants to change or modify dishes to accommodate our own nutritional needs, but don’t necessarily do that for our children.” While I do typically try to add a side of veggies to my children’s order, as most of the time it’s not included, rarely do I show them other options on the adult menu to teach them about making healthier choices. I decided to preform a little test with my kids (ages three and four) at the Pan Asian restaurant, Rock Sugar.


They don’t offer a children’s menu so this was going to take a bit of creativity. My son immediately asked for chicken fingers but instead, I explained how grilled chicken was a better choice and placed an order for chicken on a stick (satay with the sauce on the side). Both kids loved the taste, which was obviously enhanced by eating food impaled by a stick. My daughter requested mac and cheese but we decided instead on Thai noodles with chicken, tofu, crushed peanuts (the waiter made sure to ask if we had any allergies as peanuts are easy to omit) and scrambled egg. I watched in amazement as she devored it laughing as she stabbing the egg with a pair of chopsticks. We also ordered the spicy cauliflower, which we had steamed sans spice.


When I expressed what I positive experience we were having, Rock Sugar’s Executive Chef, Mohan Ismail simply said, “We’re used to catering to children,” adding, “We can amend pretty much anything.” I was impressed to say the least and a bit embarrassed at myself for not having had to power to think outside of the box before. The key for me was making it fun and not being afraid to ask. Not every restaurant is willing to make changes to accommodate children, but many are and finding out which ones is as simple as making a phone call.


We finished off our meal with Mango Lassi’s, which are smoothies made with mango, kaffir lime, lemongrass and yogurt. A perfect end to a perfect dinner that didn’t include mounds of cheese, a deep fryer or a massive piece of cake.

There are a few key things you can do to help make your dining experience smoother prior to heading out.

1. Look at the menu on line
Make sure there are things your kids will enjoy and start thinking about any changes you may want to make or ingredients you’ll want to omit in advance.
2. Call the restaurant
Confirm that they’re amicable to making menu changes and kid friendly.
3. Go early
Eating on the early side lessens the chance your kids will be cranky when you sit down and gives the chef more time to make changes, as the kitchen won’t likely be slammed


Disclaimer: Rock Sugar hosted us to help facilitate this post.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.