First, steps, first words, first tooth and for parents who enjoy dining out we can add baby’s first meals out on the town. Sure you can BYOB-bring your own baby food but many restaurants today are equipped to whip up baby pleasing and nutrition friendly foods if you know what to ask for. Smartest first step: find a chef with a baby. Young chefs and restaurant owners with their own tots at home will no doubt be familiar with what might work for their youngest customers. Lance Gummere, executive chef at The Shed at Glenwood in Atlanta, who has a sixth month old son Ryland, says he sympathizes with families looking to dine out, “We find that new parents and parents of young children steer away from dining out of paranoia that they are irritating the establishment so to counteract that we have Early bird specials for parents.” Gummere has even added pureed organic vegetables to the menu including butternut squash and English peas. He adds that offering menu specials to families seated before 6:30 pm helps other guests enjoy their meals too, “We do really try to push for the early dining because in trying to satisfy ALL guests, if we accommodate parents with children's bedtimes early, we can then entertain our adult crowd later and keep everyone happy.”
Baby Friendly Menu Tips
Table Lessons- Besides offering parents an alternative to cooking at home, dining out with small children even babies helps encourage a healthy curiosity about food and how to behave at the table at an early age.
Fruit First- Restaurants often have fresh fruit available. Depending on age of the baby and whether they need mashed bananas or are already into finger foods, ask for cut up fruit while you enjoy an appetizer. It not only gives them a serving or two of healthy fruit it keeps them busy.
Pasta Please- The old stand by plate of pasta is of course a favorite with easy to pick up penne or shells the best choice for babies working on their pincher skills. Ask for
pasta tossed with a little olive oil and grated parmesan cheese rather than coated in melted butter.
On the Menu- Try to work with what’s on the menu and ask for slight variations. For instance, miso soup at Japanese restaurants comes with chunks of tofu so ask for pieces of tofu on a little plate. It’s a good source of vegetable protein and other nutrients and soft enough for babies eating solid foods.
Simple is best- Often side dishes, even steamed vegetables, are prepared with too much salt. Request that baby’s vegetables or mashed potatoes be prepared without added salt. You may have to order a baked potato or sweet potato and mash your own at the table.
Beware the hot stuff- Kids, even the littlest one, move fast. One mom told me that her toddler was served hot chocolate in a cup with a lid and a straw and before she could grab it away, the baby slurped in the hot liquid and oh, the tears! Avoid spicy foods, too. It’s always best if you taste it first.
Be a Cut Up- To prevent choking risk, always cut cherry tomatoes, grapes and other foods into tiny bites. They’re easier to pick up with tiny fingers too.
Serve safe: Always a good idea to bring a portable place mat that can stick to table tops so you know the surface is clean and you can cut things up so that older babies can eat with their hands right off of the mat.