By Melissa Barrad
As an event planner, I am typically involved in the final catering meeting, where we discuss a multitude of details. Three consistent questions my clients always get from caterers are “Will there be children?” “How many?” and “What are their ages?”
If my clients reply yes, a common catering response is “Great! We can do chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese or pizza . . . ”
Now, this sounds great in theory. Typically, if you’re having a sit-down event you want kiddos of every age to happily dig in, with little interruption or boycotting of the meal. Because I am a mother as well, I see these items as staples in the toddler and the under-seven crowd.
But, to be honest, it isn’t my favorite way to go. I don’t feed my own child starchy foods as his entire meal. His meal typically begins with vegetables, and ends with a protein and a healthy starch. Is this always how it goes? No, but I do believe in “everything in moderation” and that you can occasionally have special treats for special occasions.
This is an event industry standard that is in need of change. If you go into any major restaurant chain in America, you’ll find similar options. But, these menus make it challenging for caregivers to feed kids in the same manner as they are fed at home. Not surprisingly, kids behave better when they eat better. It’s been proven over and over again by a number of different studies — a detail that I think brides and grooms in particular would be interested in considering.
So, given the struggle between what’s reasonably priced tasty food and a healthy option, where do event hosts go from here? First, assess the kids who will be present. If they are under two, they’ll likely eat from their parent’s plate or have their own food on hand. If they are over ten, they qualify for an adult meal. I can say I’ve seen two-year-olds with refined palettes that love a Caprese Salad, and I’ve also seen a college-aged brother of the bride last year ask for chicken fingers.
When in doubt, ask parents what works best for their children. When in doubt, consider a healthy alternative with “hidden” nutrients: spaghetti squash with fresh pasta sauce, mac n’ cheese with cauliflower or even a veggie burger and sweet potato fries. If you are working with a caterer or restaurant that focuses on farm-to-table and/or organic food, lean on them for options. Ask them what they’d serve their children (or nieces and nephews).
Who knows? Your special event might be a turning point for an impressionable younger palette. You can feel good about feeding them great food at a reasonable rate.