Thursday, November 1, 2012

Picky Eaters - Winning the Battle

I have a love/hate relationship with dinner time.  I absolutely love it because 9 times out of 10 we sit down together to share a meal and it is during this half hour that we learn the ins and outs of our kids' lives.  I secretly (or not so secretly) loathe (yes, I said 'loathe') it too because outside of about 5 go to meals, it can be a stressful event introducing our kids to new recipes and foods.  The battle lines are instantly drawn and it is almost like they have turned off the food before they've even tried it. (Don't look back at my comment about trying new foods myself)

We recently visited the Mandarin Buffet Restaurant for dinner.  This was a test in itself.  Honestly, if I had told my kids we were having Chinese food for dinner at home there might have been a revolt but putting it in the setting of a dinner out at a restaurant somehow made it an exciting adventure. 


The atmosphere lured them in from the moment we set foot in the door. We were warmly greeted by our host, however, it was the Koi swimming underneath our feet that made the biggest impact on the kids.  Seriously, what kid doesn't like fish ponds?   Their awe didn't stop there though. 

As our host led us to our table, the kids eyes were almost popping out of their heads as they took in the rows and rows of delicious food steaming away, an ample salad bar, a sushi bar and of course the multiple dessert tables.  Have I mentioned that my kids have never been to a buffet before?

The drink menu was the next big hit with the kids.  There were a variety of mocktails to choose from for the kids and a wide range of drinks for the adults.  It was now time to hit the buffet.  We decided to divide and conquer so my husband took my daughter and the set off in one direction while my son and I went in another.

I was shocked at my son.  He was piling up his plate with foods he would never touch at home; crab cakes, fish, cooked vegetables, spring rolls, sushi, etc.  After filling our plates we headed back to the table.  My daughter was already tucking into a plate of Shanghai noodles and making a valiant attempt with chopsticks.  My husband's plate was brimming with seafood (something we never cook at home) and sushi (another novelty at our house).  I went old school and tried some wonton soup, low mien, spareribs, sushi, chicken curry, fried rice and some of the delicious vegetable dishes they had.

Throughout the meal my son kept saying "mmmm....I love this" and "mmmm...this is good, I like Chinese food".  My daughter asked if we could come back again.  That in itself is high praise!

Our waiter, Gary, has been with the Mandarin for over 20 years and his experience showed.  He was great with the kids and came to my husband's rescue as he battled the enormous crab legs showing him just where to crack them. 

As we went up for dessert I wished I had worn pants with an elastic waistband.  There was a wide array of cakes, squares, tarts, cookies, ice cream, fruit, etc. Because I was already so full I stuck to fruit and a mini-fruit tart but then that macaroon caught my eye.  The kids loved the ice cream bar complete with toppings and of course the strawberries dipped in chocolate.    The dessert bar didn't disappoint. 

The best thing about our dinner at the Mandarin Buffet was that there was something for everyone.  The food was constantly being replenished and was always hot and fresh.  While I really encouraged the kids to branch out and try Chinese food, there were some delicious non-Chinese foods available such as roast beef (carved to order), Caesar salad and even pizza.  It is really a restaurant you can go to with a group and know that everyone will leave full and satisfied. 

At the end of the meal I surveyed the kids and asked them what their favourite dish was.  My son's was crab cakes and my daughter's was noodles.  What hit me the most was that they tried new foods without being forced, prompted or bribed.  By taking them out of their normal setting, it opened their minds to trying new things.  Something to remember for the future.  Our dinner at the Mandarin Buffet was a huge success and something we'll definitely do again!

How do you get your kids to try new foods?

Although this post has generously been sponsored by Mandarin,
the opinions and language are all my own.


  1. I think every parent has experienced a picky eater. I love that just taking your kids to a new (and fun - who doesn't love fish tanks and parrots?) environment prompted them to try new food without being begged, threatened or bribed :)I think a lot of people might have the misconception that you can't eat healthy at a Mandarin restaurant, so it was interesting to know that food such as sushi and fresh fruit are available options. It seems like this restaurant could satisfy my 3 year old and my 93 year old grandmother alike - who doesn't like an place like that?

    1. The variety was amazing and there really was something for everyone. Kids are so funny. You always hear that they'll eat something at daycare or a friend's house but they won't touch it at home. This was a lot of fun for all of us and a nice treat to try something new.


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