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With the modern parent teaching their children the importance of eating healthily from a young age, there is a huge opportunity for chefs and restauranteurs to develop menus that can entice health-conscious parents and delight fussy young palates.

Say goodbye to unhealthy chicken nuggets, fries and ice cream. With the right focus, a little time and creativity, you can prepare a menu that ticks all the right boxes, keeping both parents and children happy.

How do you get started on creating a menu that your diners will love?

The best way to start the ball rolling is to simply ask your diners.

You can do this through casual, personal interaction with them or through a simple survey that diners can complete while waiting for their food to arrive.

You’ll find this to be an invaluable resource when learning more about your diners’ needs. Be sure to ask the children too, they’ll be the ones who will ultimately be giving the most valuable and truthful feedback of all!

Consider some of the following when developing your expanded menu.

  • Meet special dietary preferences wherever you can. Allow modifications to children’s meals to match any specific dietary needs, such as possible gluten or lactose intolerances.

  • Kids will be kids. Remember that children will still jump at the chance to eat sweets and fries, so instead of completely eliminating these choices, consider alternatives. Make children-friendly fries by cutting them straight from potatoes and not from a bag of industrially supplied fries. You could also offer wedges or roast them as potatoes. Serve these treats with a yummy salsa or homemade tomato sauce while avoiding spices that may be more appropriate for adults’ developed taste buds.

  • Grill meats or bake fish instead of frying them. Healthy methods of cooking meat can be more attractive and even tastier than their deep fried alternatives. After all, consider the colour and flavours that are lost when food is deep fried!
  • For desserts, offer fruits to children, presented in fun and unique ways. For example, provide fruit salad bowls with yoghurt, sandwiches and other healthy treats. Whatever you decide, presentation is important. Keep the visual presentation fun and colourful. Here’s your chance to impress your junior diners with wicked originality!

  • Use spiralling vegetables as an alternative to pasta noodles. These “noodles” mimic both the look and texture of al dente pasta. Alternatively, use wholegrain pasta and noodles.

  • Offer fruit-infused water rather than sugary sodas. Try carbonated water for a fizzy delight kids love, and water served from a jug infused with fresh fruit to their parents. Give it a fun name if you can too –when it comes to kids’ dining experiences, presentation is half the fun!

  • If your restaurant has a salad bar, or has the space for one, consider allowing parents and children to create do-it-yourself salad bowls. Stock your salad bar with interesting, colourful food items. This same concept can be used for dessert bars, but remember to use fruits of course!

Some other kid-friendly menu suggestions to consider include:

Korean noodles, steamed buns, stir-fried rice (with minimal oil), coriander roti, vegetable curry, edamame, courgette pizza, nacho wraps, dumplings, beef and lentil Bolognese, ice cream made with frozen bananas, fish burgers in pita bread, tuna pasta salad, pastry-less pies, vege stir-fried noodles, watermelon and cucumber salad and many others!

In summary, take note of the most important factors in planning your kid-friendly menu:

  • Vibrant colours
  • Fun presentation
  • Healthy versions of traditionally unhealthy food choices like fries and nuggets

Have a go at these tips and create a kid-friendly dining experience that both kids and their parents will absolutely love.