Are children menus a good thing?

Encouraging adventurous eating.

Before we weaned Poppet and learnt about baby led weaning I never gave childrens menus a second thought, but going through the baby led weaning process got me thinking about all sorts of things to do with childrens nutrition and how we historically teach them about food and how to eat. Last week I saw this post about Carluccio (of Carluccio’s restaurants) – he has publicly questioned whether kids menus are a good thing. 

This is something that my better half and I spent some time discussing when our first child started eating out with us. Why on earth would we put a plate of chicken nuggets and chips in front of our child when she would be just as happy sharing our fish / steak / vegetables. For a long time we skipped childrens menus entirely until such time as she began to need a bigger portion than ‘a bit of ours’ could offer. At that point in most restaurants the choice becomes quite limited.

It seems to me that the restaurants are making life more complicated for themselves too – what would be so difficult about offering 2 other dish sizes for toddlers and older kids? At Pizza Express they have a really good kids menu, great value at £6.45 for :

  • dough balls & salad starter
  • Choice of 3 pizzas OR choice of 3 pasta dishes (all either tomato or cheese sauce based)
  • Choice Of dessert
  • Babycino

As much as this is good value my 2 year really did not need all that food at all, in fact when eating out with friends we often had two 2 year olds struggling to share one of these between them. In terms of the (inter)national obesity crisis this does not seem a very sensible way to start our kids off when dining out, not to mention the unethical food wastage that must be huge when viewed over a whole chain of restaurants.

In terms of choice I really don’t understand why the main meals have to be pre specified. As it happens my daughter really does not like cheese, so the cheese and ham pasta would be out straight away which doesn’t leave much variety. Why can’t a restaurant such as this offer a toddler size portion of any main on the menu? If they have pans and bowls that are predetermined too then surely it can’t be too difficult for the kitchen? 

They could then offer :

  • a toddler portion – 50% of the adult portion and 50% of the price
  • a bigger kid portion – 70% of the adult portion and 70% of the price

I should imagine this would result in much less food being thrown away and toddlers being taught to eat anything off the menu and in sensible portion sizes.

Carluccio’s almost do this, but it would be great if this became standard in any restaurant – whether it was your local curry house or your nearest Harvester. Incidentally I am not knocking Pizza Express – we are a fan of theirs, it just struck me that most kids would like all sorts from their menu so why do they limit their choices so much?

What do you think?