Great NYT Article on Kids Meals

May 31, 2007

My friend Catherine brought this article to my attention, in which the author, David Kamp, makes a brilliant—and entertaining—case for serving kids ‘real’ food, both at home and in restaurants. I thought after all the conversation around my That Fresh Feeling post, you guys might enjoy too. Here are a few highlights and the link:

“In short, I came to the realization that America is in the grips of a nefarious chicken-finger pandemic, in which a blandly tasty foodstuff has somehow become the de facto official nibble of our young . . . Far from being an advance, I’ve concluded, the standard children’s menu is regressive, encouraging children (and their misguided parents) to believe that there is a rigidly delineated ‘kids’ cuisine’ that exists entirely apart from grown-up cuisine.the food industry has developed a whole new segment predicated on what the nutritionist Marion Nestle, in her book ‘What to Eat,’ calls the ‘ ‘kids are only supposed to eat kids’ food’ strategy.’

. . . it’s encouraging that some important players in the hospitality industry are taking action on this front . . . like Tony Miller of Latitude 41, the restaurant of the Renaissance Columbus in Ohio. ‘We do not have a chicken finger in this restaurant,’ Mr. Miller said. The father of a 4-year-old girl, he constructed his ‘Fun Menu’ to appeal to children without pandering to them. ‘It features zero fried foods on it,’ he said. ‘We do grilled organic chicken teriyaki, a seared fillet of whatever fish is in season, and a four-once fillet of natural beef with smashed potatoes. I have not received a single negative reaction from adults or kids. Not one. The kids say ‘Man, that’s the best steak I’ve ever eaten!’ ‘

. . . In my family, it’s been a matter of getting back to that simple idea — the kids eat what the parents eat — and cutting off those little fingers.”



9 Responses to “Great NYT Article on Kids Meals”

  1. Josie Says:

    I loved that article as well. I feel like we, as a society, have been brainwashed by advertising about kids and food. What in the world did our great grandparents eat before Gerber made everything?? πŸ™‚

    Anyway – if you are ever make a trip to Columbus, OH to bring Noe to Latitude 41, let me know and I will come say hi! Your blog and recipes on your other site are incredible… and I hope you do get around to making that companion cookbook to your novel.
    – Josie (avariell from board)

  2. lia Says:

    Amen sista! It always confounds me when people look at me funny when I say I’m going to feed Noe real food. I mean, have we gotten to a place as a society where it’s abnormal to serve our children something that hasn’t been mashed and processed and fortified and pasteurized?

    I’ll take you up on your offer next time we’re out the Columbus way, Josie (so good to know your real name . . . I’m fairly new to this whole virtual world, and it’s still a bit disconcerting to me that I can’t call people by name when I’m writing to them ;)). And I’ll hope to deliver on that cookbook too — fingers crossed, the novel’s going out to the next agent next week!

    I look forward to seeing more of you here on swirlingnotions!


  3. Norma Says:

    Lia, this is such an intesting and true article, which I relate to very much. At many friends/family gatherings, I thought I looked a little different because the kids had the same menu as the adults, but the real thing (meat, chicken, fish, grilled veggies)is always more nutritional than what categorized as ‘kids foods’, and you can always be creative and present the food the young one in fun way! My kids in particular love when I served them rice in a shape of bowl – they feel like they’re at a restaurant!

    Take care & keep bloggin away!

  4. lia Says:

    Hi Norma. Good to see you here! I totally agree with you on the ‘adult food being the best kids food’ front, and I hope that Noe will agree with our philosophy ;-). I just planted eggplant in the garden yesterday and added an extra one just for her. So here’s hoping . . .


  5. Kathleen Vignos Says:

    Lia, I’m so glad you read that NYT article before bringing Noe home (though you undoubtedly already had this notion). At home we never serve our kids separate food. There is only one dinner at meal time. This is not only nutritious for the kids but the only truly practical option for Mom (or whomever is cooking).

    Of course our kids do complain… especially Tommy (3). I make sure there’s at least one thing I can reasonably expect him to eat (usually the starch – pasta, bread, rice, pita bread…), and I don’t worry about the rest. Josie (5) is a much better eater than she was at 3 – so it does get better.

    Key to remember: kids won’t starve themselves, they truly won’t. Serve only nutritious food and they will eat it! Read “How to Get Your Kid to Eat… (but not too much)” by Ellyn Satter (or “Child of Mine” by the same author).

    My wish for you is that Noe would be as good an eater as the Costa girls or the Cole kids (two other families who share this philosophy)!

  6. Julie Breaux Says:


    From the mother of a 9 year old boy who LOVES sushi (and I mean the totally raw kind), grilled salmon, calamari and a host of other non-traditional kid foods, I have been on the receiving end of many stares from waiters in restaurants when my son wants to order off the adult menu and doesn’t want anything to do with chicken fingers, popcorn shrimp or some nasty pre-fab macaroni and cheese. I don’t know if that was because Kevin and I never catered to either of our children’s menu demands at home or if it is strictly his distinct personality. Our daughter was a true chicken nugget conossieur, but thankfully she outgrew that phase!! I guess what I am trying to say is do try to expose Noe to as much as you can, but recognize that some of it will be her own little personality….and if she does prefer chicken nuggets, hopefully she will outgrow it too!! πŸ™‚ And as a mother of an 18 year old daughter, my other piece of advice is, enjoy it….because you will turn around and she will be grown!!

  7. lia Says:

    Well said, on all counts, Julie!

  8. Lisa Imerman Says:


    Thanks for drawing attention to this article. We rarely eat out and when we do, we usually end up ordering regular meals for the kids or sharing things among the adults and kids. My two boys can’t have dairy and all 3 of my children have always been good eaters. We eat well at home, so they expect nothing less when we go out.

    One story in particular is when we were going to a hotel for a weekend event with a group and I needed to make sure the planned food would work with our allergies. They had me speak with the hotel chef. We were having a full chicken dinner and I knew the noodle dishes, side dishes, potatoes, etc. would all contain dairy. I asked about the chicken breading/coating. They checked (many times it has whey in it) and I think it did have some milk ingredients. I asked if they could just make up some grilled chicken with steamed broccoli for my kids as they would be very happy with that and some applesauce for dessert (in lieu of the ice cream they serve). They really gave me a hard time when I repeatedly stated that they did not need “chicken finger or the equivelent) and fries.

    It is really appalling what I hear many parents saying their kids eat. Many complain that thier kids will only eat the fries, nuggets, neon mac and cheese, but I always want to say that it may be because that is what they have been trained to like. There are some kids that develop limited taste and are finicky, but for the most part I find it is more about the parents than the kids.

    The school meals are horrible where we are and I have been working to try and change it. However, it shocks me how many parents cannot comprehend having no sugary birthday treats allowed. When we have school parties, it is usually the fresh fruit, veggies and dip, cheese and chips with salsa that is gone first. Kids know what is good if they are offered it (for the most part).

    Lisa Imerman
    (Lrimerman from

  9. lia Says:

    Hi Lisa! It’s so good to see you here!

    Amen, sista, to your comments here. I loved what you said about “but I always want to say that it may be because that is what they have been trained to like.” I agree with you here. Without exception, my friends who serve their kids ‘real food’ from an early age end up with kids who like ‘real food’ later in life (at least until they hit school, with those lovely lunches ;-)). So it’s great to hear you’ve experienced that too.

    I’m just four days away from seriously being challenged to walk the talk with all this. We’ll be with Noe in the Guatemala Marriott, where I’m sure they’ll have an array of ‘kid things’ on the menu . . . now granted, Noe’s only 7 months old, so chicken fingers most definitely won’t be on the agenda. But I’m bringing my baby food mill and we’re heading to the market in any case! πŸ™‚ I’ll report back on how it all goes . . .


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