Kids enjoying their dishes at a Japanese restaurant in Toronto

Kids enjoying their dishes at a Japanese restaurant in Toronto

“What is that?” my son asks as the server lays a plate of pad see ew with tofu in front of me. Before I can answer, he follows up with, “can I try?” He picks up his chopsticks and digs in. He was five at the time.

Friends often tell us our kids are adventurous eaters and they’d love it if their kids would eat at least one vegetable a week let alone daily. Even family members marvel that my son will eat Brussels sprouts and my daughter loves lentils. They ask how we do it.

Raising kids with a love for food is important to my husband and me because not only do I write about food, but we genuinely love eating out, exploring new restaurants, tasting new meals and learning about new cuisines. Before kids, we ate out most nights of the week. We wanted to instill that love of great meals with them so as soon as they were born, out we went as if every meal was an adventure to be enjoyed.

Foodie TravelingMom's son enjoy lobster tail ~ his request for his birthday

Foodie TravelingMom’s son enjoy lobster tail ~ his request for his birthday

Many restaurants make it easier for parents by providing a kids’ menu. While we’ve ordered from that menu, our kids tend to order from the main menu, adult meal price tags and all and we encourage it.

We’re not the only parents who must feel this way because the restaurants at Loews Hotels & Resorts recently revamped their menus to make sure they’re catering to every type of customer – whether they are 5 or 50 years old – with its new culinary program: Precocious Plates.

I wondered why Loews went through the trouble and asked Mark Weiss, senior vice president of Food and Beverage for Loews Hotel & Resorts. “Adventurous eaters need to be developed from an early age, if we limit what our children eat now it will only limit their willingness to try new foods as they get older,” he answered.

Kids dining at Lowes Hotel & Resorts restaurants can have a Shrimp and Grits dish at Café Adelaide in the Loews New Orleans, a Jumbo Lump Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich at Maritana Grille in the Loews Don Cesar and the Tarragon Tiger Shrimp with Lobster Risotto at Ocean and Vine at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The hotel brand is creating food experiences for kids similar to their foodie parents through this program.

Foodie TravelingMom's son trying mussels for the first time. Not only did he eat all of his, but he ate all of the mussels from my plate!

Foodie TravelingMom’s son trying mussels for the first time. Not only did he eat all of his, but he ate all of the mussels from my plate!

“Precocious Plates is designed to extract great flavors from simple, delicious dishes and gives children the opportunity to have the same elevated dining experience as their parents,” added Weiss.

My son might be an adventurous eater but my daughter is a bit pickier (though the girl does love her maki rolls). I asked Weiss how chefs handle kids who are picky about what they eat. “Picky eaters come in all ages, chefs (at their discretion) can update and manage menu items depending on what is worked in their individual restaurant,” he said. Luckily, many chefs today are flexible (within reason) and have accommodated requests to leave off certain things or spices to cater to our young diners’ palates.

Another way we’ve encouraged adventurous eating with our kids is we grow a ton of vegetables in our garden and have a dedicated garden for each of them so they can grow whatever they want. Last year we grew peanuts; this year we were successful with beets, watermelon and squash.

We also head to a farmers market almost every week and ask them what they’d like to buy so they can be part of the decision process.

Kids successfully grew peanuts which we immediately dried and roasted.

Kids successfully grew peanuts which we immediately dried and roasted.

They decide on a recipe based on what they grew or bought and delight in preparing the dish so, naturally, they are excited to try what they make. This process also helps teach them where food comes from and how hard (and easy) it is to prepare healthy, flavorful meals. It provides them with an appreciation of what farmers go through as well as the chefs who prepare meals on a daily basis. My son wants to become a chef when he grows up. He’s seven now and, you know what, that would be awesome because then he can cook for me! Even if he doesn’t become a chef, though, I hope we will have taught him to be willing to try new things and enjoy the experience.

For now, though, there are many benefits to raising adventurous eaters including being able to try new restaurants and not having to worry about finding a fast food joint when we travel. Bon appetit!