Piping hot pepperoni pizza, gooey grilled cheese, crispy french fries and juicy chicken fingers. What do all of these foods have in common? (Besides being delicious, that is.) Yep, you guessed it! These meals are frequent flyers on kids’ menus across America.
If you’ve got a diner under 10, chances are they order from this ever-present section, nestled safely between the dessert and drink options. (Or, if you're lucky, the menu comes on a paper coloring page accompanied by cheap crayons). From burger joints to Mexican taquerias, a bowl of mac and cheese is never more than a page away. These quick eats are cheap and tasty, but their flavor comes at a price. Is this really the kind of food that we want to raise our kids on?
Look, I get it. Kids are picky! They turn up their noses up at the unfamiliar. Could it be that part of that is due to the fact that we don’t expose them to a variety of foods as they grow? What child would suddenly want to eat a Caesar salad at age 11 while they’ve been eating chicken strips since they were 5? I, for one, chose to forgo salad well into my adolescent years. But when I was forced to look somewhere other than the kids' menu for entrees, I discovered that it was possible to have yummy food that couldn't necessarily be found in the frozen dinner aisle.
This leads me to my next point: the food on children’s menus is typically not healthy. French fries are the default side for every main dish, and the included kiddie cup of soda completes the trifecta. These choices lack the nutrients (and flavor) that kids should be taking in. How are kids supposed to know what they should eat if they’re taught that fried food should be the go-to?
You may argue that it’s up to parents to feed their children ‘creative’ foods at home. But in this day of convenience and speed, it can be hard to switch it up. The fact of the matter is that microwave corndogs take much less time to prepare than a laborious pot roast.
If we want our children to have experienced palates, we need to give them the chance to develop them. So, allow the little ones to order off of the 'grown-up' menu every once in a while. Adventurous food may be pricier, but that’s a small price to pay for a child who’s not afraid to eat green stuff.
Nothing’s wrong with letting your kid indulge every now and then. Eat the pizza! Slurp the milkshake! But please, let it be something that only happens on occasion. The mac and cheese will still be here tomorrow, I promise!