There are lots of good reasons parents avoid taking their kids to nice restaurants, including tight budgets, cranky behavior (all around) and a lack of healthy kids meal options. There's not much restaurateurs can do about the first two issues, but a group of them are attempting to tackle the last with the new Healthy Fare for Kids program. Spearheaded by chef Sarah Stegner, 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith and others, the program challenges restaurants to permanently offer at least one nutritionally sound meal for kids starting this Sunday Dec. 4.
So far, participants include Café Ba Ba Reeba, Mon Ami Gabi, MorSo, Nookies,
"I think this is really important because so many families are taking their kids out to eat regularly," Stegner wrote in an email. "And for them, having the option of ordering something delicious and healthy can make a difference in how the kids feel. Understanding that good food can also taste good is important, too."
At her own two Prairie restaurants Stegner serves "a grass fed 4-ounce tenderloin with a vegetable for $21.50," which she says is "at the top of the price scale but it is one of the most popular kids meals."
She also offers a chicken cutlet with
" I was really surprised when I put this on the menu and saw it sell regularly," Stegner wrote. "All of these entrees come with a side vegetable, usually Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Sometimes they will ask for mashed potatoes instead."
In her initial pitch to fellow chefs Stegner suggested the following guidelines for dishes.
- Substitute the bread at the table with fresh vegetables
- Ensure some lean protein with the meal
- Serve whole grain breads and pasta
- Use cooking methods that are lower in fat while still retaining flavors
- Keep it local and seasonal
- Portion sizes: Keep it simple
- Beverage and Dessers: Have kids order flat or sparkling water flavored with vegetables or fruit, even with 100% juice. Or serve non-flavored milk with dinner...Finally, end this healthy dining experience by retooling desserts. If you want to add dessert to the meal, continue the idea of small and seasonal.