Hotel Industry Wakes Up to Healthier Kids Menus

At the hotel's family-friendly Cascades restaurant, he noted, kids might try the Asian noodle station at the breakfast buffet, or opt for celebrated chef and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project Alice Waters three-course kids menu for dinner, starting when we visited with a hearts of romaine salad with apples, Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette, a grilled chicken breast with carrots and potatoes with green aioli and strawberry and orange slices for desert.

Kids love the pots of herbs brought to the table that they can snip themselves for their plates.

Even in Orlando, where many people think -- wrongly -- there are few choices beyond the fast-food, kids increasingly can eat well, and healthy, wherever they are:

• At the Hilton Orlando, Executive Chef Louis Martorano takes great pains to use locally sourced food for the adult as well as the kids menus.

• At Emeril's TChoup Chop at Universal Orlando's Royal Pacific Hotel, the kids menu included braised short ribs, and at Loews Portofino Bay Mama Della's, the 8-year-old we were with chowed down on fettuccine alfredo.

• At Disney World's new Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, the kids menu features Mickey Check Meals that are lower in fat -- grilled fish with whole grain rice pilaf, turkey meatloaf -- shaped like mouse ears, of course, with broccoli and orange dipping sauce.

Take a look at the new food offerings in Disney's New Fantasyland, including Be Our Guest.

• Order a kid's meal at any Disney park and you get apples instead of fries (unless you ask for fries) and low-fat milk rather than sugary soda. Now Disney is enhancing such efforts by further reducing sodium in kids' meals and introducing new well-balanced kids' breakfast meals.

• The Chefee's delectable at Wolfgang Puck Grand Café in Downtown Disney includes a California roll, grilled chicken and spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce with Freezin' Fruit for dessert.

"Not only do kids have higher expectations for their food, but families are more sophisticated travelers these days," says Edan Ballantine, director of food and beverage at the Grand New York Hyatt, which welcomes families from around the world to its midtown location.

And for American Girl fans, the hotel has just initiated The American Girl Package including American Girl Bed, gift card for American Girl Place, milk and cookies for your daughter and her doll and discounted breakfast. Package rates start at $250, per room, per night.

He noted that more families now pay a premium for access to the Grand Club Lounge where they help themselves to breakfast, everything from smoked salmon and bagels to cereal and egg dishes and afternoon snacks. The club has just been renovated and expanded with an outdoor deck overlooking the heart of Midtown Manhattan because it is so popular.

The day I was there for breakfast, there were plenty of kids who made themselves completely at home amid the business crowd. They were in evidence in late afternoon too, when complimentary snacks, enough for dinner for some kids, are served. The same was true at the club lounges at the Grand Cypress, where there is a separate alcove where kids can watch cartoons and at the Loews Portofino Bay.

The important thing, Hyatt's Ballantine said, is to give families more opportunities to eat healthier without sacrificing taste. That might mean turkey meatballs with the pasta or crunchy baked "chicken pops" rather than fried chicken fingers.

I hope other hotels, large and small, are paying attention.

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