I ordered a kids sandwich for my two year old in a well known Northumbrian cafe last month and this is what arrived.

Over the last couple of years, I have been introduced into the world of ‘kids meals’ in restaurants, cafes and bars. This has been an interesting and enlightening experience. Most of them are based on the ‘give them something to keep them quiet’ model, using the cheapest of ingredients, presented in the poorest way. Others spend considerable time thinking about ‘kids meals’, what should be included, and how they should be presented.

A bit of background. When our son turned 6 months, we started to wean off pure breast milk onto normal food. We chose to use the ‘baby led weaning‘ method rather than the puree-ing. This, sometimes messy method, is where children are encouraged to eat the same as their parents, albeit in smaller sizes. It is in a child’s instinct to try to eat everything, and anything put in front of them. Kids love to pick things up, and feel them, play with them before putting them in their mouth, so they have developed the feel also. Therefore, we, as parents, ate fairly healthy, he sees this as normal, and quite happily eats fruit and veg with little fuss. Through this, he has also learnt how to act at the table (mostly) which helps us immeasurably when eating out.

The main issue we have when eating out is portion sizes (and waiting times), as a 2 year old isn’t going to eat as much as me (well sometimes he does), and eating out is expensive, so in places that don’t offer smaller portion sizes, we end up with the kids menus.

What makes a good kids meal? in my mind, one that appeals to the nature of a child, is tasty, healthy and reasonably priced (the price of a child’s meal should be proportionate to an adults meal, if you wish the same quality of food and service). I would prefer my child to be able to hold a conversation during a meal so while the provision of crayons and paper is handy, they are only so if the waiting time is excessive, and it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

While I maintain that a good ‘kids meal’ is an adults meal with smaller portion sizes (if you are unlikely to eat it, why would you make a child eat it?), and there must be masses of examples of good practice out there, there are sadly plenty examples of really poor meals also out there.

For the record, our two year old spotted some cucumber on our plates, and left the crisps where they were in favour of bite sized pieces of greenery. Whilst I hate food wastage, in this circumstance it was hard to blame him.

Let us know what you think makes a good kids meal…

by Duncan Lean

Images: Duncan Lean and Unsplash