According to the National Restaurant Association, chefs are incorporating these 7 food trends into their menus this year. The goal? Attracting the loyal palates of kids, the next generation of foodies!
Happily, these trends not only satisfy kids, but parents too, as they embrace nutrition right along with deliciousness. Gone are the days of being forced to choose between the two!
Check out our list of 2017 kids food trends, along with some yummy recipe ideas you can even try at home!
Kids Food Trend #1: Healthy Meal Options
Chefs are focusing on innovative ways to teach our youngest eaters that just because food is healthy doesn’t mean it has to be tasteless and boring! Uno Pizzeria & Grill added these adorable “Safari Nuggets” to their kids menu, which are shaped like dinosaurs and baked, not fried, for a healthier version of the classic chicken nugget. Try the below recipe at home, which actually uses oatmeal instead of bread. Don’t forget to pair it with some organic broccoli so your dinosaurs have some trees to eat!
Dino Chicken Nuggets
1/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning (or substitute with paprika)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit if you plan on baking the nuggets straight away. (This is a make-ahead recipe that you can freeze for 2 or 3 months.)
2) In large bowl, combine chicken, oatmeal, garlic powder, and pepper with halfof the Parmesan and Zatarain’s. Knead dry ingredients into ground chicken. If you’re using sliced bread instead of oatmeal, first dip the slices into water and dampen until the bread reaches a dough-like consistency.
3) Make 1-tbsp balls from the chicken mixture and press into a cookie cutter. Tip: To prevent sticking, moisten hands before forming balls.
4) In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs with remaining Zatarain’s seasoning and grated Parmesan. Coat nuggets evenly by pressing the nuggets into the mixture on both sides and patting the crumbs in.
5) Freeze OR line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange nuggets on cookie sheet. Optional: For a crunchier texture, lightly spray the nuggets with cooking spray or olive oil. Bake 15-20 minutes, turning once. Check the nuggets regularly so that they don’t overcook–they won’t brown very much unless they’re broiled for a few minutes at the end.
Kids Food Trend #2: Whole Grains
Many chefs are trading in processed, bleached flours for whole grains in meal items such as sandwiches, pizza and pasta…and the good news is, kids seem to love it! In addition to offering a rich flavor, whole grains are a fantastic way to get more fiber, vitamins and nutrients into your child’s diet. Carrabba’s Italian Grill added a tasty Whole Grain Spaghetti Pomodoro with Spinach to their menu. Here’s a version with eggplant, tomatoes and green olives you can try making at home with the kids:
Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
⅓ cup chopped pitted green olives
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, (optional)
12 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, or basil
1) Put a pot of water on to boil.
2) Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, capers, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if using) and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.
3) Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until just tender, about 6 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and divide the pasta among 6 shallow bowls. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and sprinkle parsley (or basil) on top.
Kids Food Trend #3: Gourmet Items
Another food trend chefs are embracing this year…introducing kids to more gourmet foods, as opposed to the traditional (and rather mundane!) grilled cheese or peanut butter & jelly sandwich you typically see on kids menus. By doing so, chefs are hoping to expand kids’ palates at an earlier age. Wisconsin restaurant, The Roxy, embraced this concept by adding an Angus Beef Tenderloin to their kids menu with a side of broccoli and apple juice. Try this gourmet steak bites recipe and couple it with your kids’ veggie of choice:
Gourmet Steak Bites
Kosher Salt To Taste
Fresh Ground Black Pepper To Taste
2 Tablespoons Butter
1) Trim off the large obvious piece of fat that runs along the side of the meat. Next, cut strips less than 1-inch wide. Rotate the meat and cut into small bite-sized pieces. If you see any more large chunks of fat, gristle or long silvery membrane, cut them off.
2) Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss the meat around a bit to thoroughly coat with the seasonings.
3) Next, turn on your ventilation fan overhead. Heat the skillet over medium high to high heat. As the pan heats, add about 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Allow the butter to melt, then brown, before you add the meat.
4) Place some of the meat in the pan in a single layer. It should sizzle loudly when it hits the pan – if it doesn’t, the pan isn’t hot enough. Don’t stir or disrupt the meat for 30-45 seconds. You want it to sizzle and brown on one side. Scoop as many steak bites as you can with your spatula and flip them over. Repeat until all the meat is turned. Cook for an additional 30 to 45 seconds—just long enough to sear the outside of the meat but NOT cook the inside.
5) Remove the meat to a clean plate. Add a little more butter to the pan and repeat the cooking process with the next batch just as before. Lastly, when all the meat is nicely browned and removed to the plate, pour all that browned/blackened butter all over the meat. And enjoy!
Kids Food Trend #4: Entree Salads
For some reason, kids aren’t always 100% excited to eat their salad greens. (Go figure!) However, chefs are coming up with creative ways to make salads more fun and appealing for children. Chipotle decided to add a ‘You Build It’ taco salad to their kids menu with a choice of healthy sides like guacamole and soft or crispy shells. You can get your kids involved in salad creating at home as well with this delicious Taco Salad recipe (and they can even bring it to school with them!)
Mason Jar Taco Salad
1 lb Five Star ground turkey
1 can black beans, drained
1 packet taco seasoning (I use simply organic)
1¼ cups salsa
5 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved
5 mini cucumbers, sliced
1 small to medium red onion, chopped
2 avocados, chopped
juice from half of a lime
11 ounce jar pickled jalapeños, drained and chopped
5 cups chopped romain lettuce
1) In a medium pan cook ground turkey until no longer pink. Add black beans, seasoning packet, and the amount of water stated in seasoning packet directions. Let taco mixture cool.
2) Divide ingredients among mason jars starting with salsa then adding greek yogurt, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, jalapeños, avocados, taco meat, then lettuce. Place lid on and close tight. No need to vacuum seal or anything like that.
3) When ready to eat, shake real good, then pour into a bowl and enjoy. Can serve with tortilla chips.
Kids Food Trend # 5: Ethnic-Inspired Dishes
Not only has international cuisine filtered into every neighborhood, but with access to the internet, movies and social media, kids today are much more worldly than in generations past. They often want to partake in more global, exotic dishes, especially if they see their parents enjoying these foods. Mama Fu’s Asian House of Austin added this mouth-watering Kid’s Sweet & Sour dish to their menu, which consists of tangy, sweet and sour chicken, pineapples, carrots, broccoli and brown rice. Grab the kids and whip up this healthy version at home:
Healthy Sweet & Sour Chicken
3-4 Five Star boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch thickness and chopped into 1 inch pieces
⅓ cup corn starch
2 tablespoons oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper
½ white or yellow onion, choppedSauce:
¾ cup sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar (may sub white vinegar)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion salt*
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon cornstarch + 2 tablespoon cold water
Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken1) First prepare the sauce. Add sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion salt, and ketchup to a medium sauce pan. Stir and bring to a boil. In a small bowl whisk together the 1 tablespoon corn starch and cold water until dissolved. Add to sauce pan and stir until thickened, then reduce to low heat.
2) Add chicken pieces and corn starch to a large ziplock bag. Seal and shake to coat chicken. Drizzle a large pan or skillet with oil. Add coated chicken. Saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add peppers and onions. Continue to saute over medium heat until chicken is browned and cooked through.
3) Add sauce to chicken and peppers. Stir to coat well. Serve warm with cooked rice if desired.
Kids Food Trend # 6: Fruit & Vegetable Side Items
If you’re health-conscious parents, you probably already serve your kids nutritious snacks at home and when making their school lunches. But why put in all that effort to keep your kids eating healthy only to have it undone when they visit a restaurant? Luckily, many chefs are beginning to incorporate more healthful side items on their kids menus, such as fruit and veggie slices, yogurt and organic juices. Chick-Fil-A offers a nutritious fruit cup brimming with green apples, strawberries, oranges and blueberries. Try this adorable Dolphin Fruit Cups recipe at home:
Dolphin Fruit Cups
Five Star Organic Blueberries
Red and green grapesDirections1) Cut a banana in 1/2 and place inside plastic cup stem-up2) Cut a slit on the stem to make a mouth3) Stick a blueberry in the dolphin’s mouth4) Fill the cup with a variety of fruit & serveSource
Chefs are trading in frying for oven-baking and grilling, much healthier options for kids menus. The Cheesecake Factory now offers a kids Grilled Salmon with potatoes and choice of veggie. Grab your Five Star wild caught salmon and try this twist on the recipe: Grilled Salmon Burgers; they’re the perfect way to cultivate your children’s appreciation of seafood and give them a healthy dose of omegas!
Grilled Salmon Burgers with Avocado Salsa
1lb Five Star salmon filet (skin removed)
1cup fresh breadcrumbs (see note)
1/4cup chopped cilantro
1tbsp lemon juice
olive oil for greasing the pan or grill
For the Avocado Salsa:
1large avocado, chopped
1/3cup chopped red onion
1/4cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
For the Salmon Burgers:
1) Chop the salmon filet into small pieces (about 1/4 inch) and transfer it into a medium mixing bowl.
2) Gently stir in the rest of the ingredients. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
3) Heat a little oil in a large non-stick grill pan over medium heat. Divide the salmon mixture into 6 and form neat patties (I used a 1/2 cup as a measure). Fry/grill the patties until browned on both sides and just cooked through; about 4 minutes on each side.
For the Avocado Salsa:
1) Combine all the salsa ingredients together and mix well.