Restaurant Style vs. Family Style: The Way You Serve Food to Your Kids Matters
By Adina Pearson, RDN
I love to eat out. I love good restaurant menus and having someone else prepare yummy food for me and clean up afterwards. I love trying new things or new spins on old things. So this blog is not in any way intended to put down eating out or restaurants. But I want to compare and contrast the restaurant style meal with that of the meal served ‘family style.’ Because it is in this comparison that the beauty and benefits of serving family style really stand out–you’ll see why family style service is so conducive to helping children grow in their acceptance of new foods.
So let’s look at how things flow when you eat in a restaurant. When you order food in a restaurant you have basically one shot. This one shot really makes ordering the ‘right’ entree critical. More so if you like things just so. I know that sometimes both my husband and I can take an awfully long time to decide what to order. So many choices! Some people are more adventurous and easy going with food, but with a myriad of options, it’s easy to feel indecisive and pressured. Then the waitstaff makes its way around again and you have to pick something. Even though you have no chance to see what the dish looks like (usually) or smells like in advance.
Once you place your order, you get what you get. It might be just what you’d hoped for or something completely different. But, practically speaking, you don’t get another chance. Once your food arrives, you’re stuck with it.
Which might be fine. Your chosen entree will probably be delicious and you’ll probably be pleased and satisfied. But unless your dining companions like to share, you won’t get to experience one of the myriad of other dishes possible.
This is not a problem in and of itself. But, let’s look at this from the perspective of a child.
Even adults don’t like to be pushed into making a quick decision about what to eat from a menu. But a young child? Children are notorious for wanting to stick to what’s safe. They also don’t usually know what they want to eat…they only know if they want to eat what’s right in front of them.
There’s a saying “the confused mind always says “no”.” So when confronted with lots of foreign options, and a brief time to decide, most kids won’t want any of it.
Once again, not a big deal in the short term. Eating out at a restaurant isn’t going to hurt your child or ruin them in any way. If you order something foreign for them and they don’t like it, no big deal. If you order something safe that they do like, also no big deal.
But, the restaurant style of serving meals is very similar to how some parents feed at home. They make up a plate of already-accepted edibles and place it in front of their child. Or, knowing her child doesn’t already like the entree she’s serving the rest of the family, Mom cooks up something special just for the picky one. All of these ways of serving a meal have one major thing in common. Feeding in this way gives your child only one choice: the food currently on his plate. If you’re struggling with your child’s food acceptance, you may have more success doing things in a new way.