By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP
What if the common restaurant kid's menu was never invented? What if parents ordered right off the adult menu, asking for a side plate to share "grown-up foods" with their kids from the moment they were learning to chew? What would happen?
- Kids would be exposed to a wide variety of textures, aromas, and tastes. Research shows that exposure to new foods is the first step to raising healthy eaters.
- Kids would explore new foods, no matter which restaurant they visited. Exploring new foods, essentially food play has been shown to decrease the likelihood that kids will become picky eaters. Food exploration doesn't have to be messy play. It can include cutting into green beans and counting each tiny bean inside or learning about shapes with parents handing over round slices of zucchini or triangles of spinach frittata. Exploring food is mindful, purposeful and has the intent of creating interest, not just filling bellies.
- Kids would expand their food repertoire over time, as they grew and experienced new restaurant menus. While purees are a nice start for learning eaters, children who linger on purees past the age of 9 months are likely to develop feeding difficulties. Kids who rely on the standard kid fare of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese or French fries, never venturing from a kiddie menu, get stuck in a kids' meal rut, with no direction on how to climb out.
Next time you take the family out to dinner, skip the kid's menu. Bring a child-safe plate in the diaper bag for toddlers and cut up safe-size portions from the adults' entrees and sides. Help older kids choose from the adult menu, perhaps ordering them their own side dish, and sharing your entrée. Expose, explore, expand over time, and raise adventurous, healthy and happy eaters.
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, is an international speaker on parenting and feeding babies and older kids. She is the co-author of the award-winning Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating (2015) and Baby Self-Feeding: Solutions for Introducing Purees and Solids to Create Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits (2016). Her new book, Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 101 Easy Activities and Recipes, will be released October 2017. Visit her at www.MelaniePotock.com for more tips and videos. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.