JW Marriott recently released a new JW Kids Menu designed by dietician, Keri Glassman, that specifically highlights healthier, kid-friendly food-options. This new menu, designed exclusively for JW Marriott, will not only provide tasty meals, but hopes to establish the beginnings of healthy eating habits through positive experience.
But does this creative new approach to “healthy” kid-friendly food actually appeal to fussy young eaters? I recently visited the New York launch party of JW Marriott’s new menu to see for myself if creativity can convince children to make healthy choices.
Kids are in Control of Dining at JW Marriott
The main theme here is “controlled control,” with kids given healthy options and the ability to act on these options however they see fit. After all, as a mother of two, Glassman knows how difficult it is to get kids to eat what’s “good” for them — but she believes that healthy choices can be made as long as children are given the space to judge for themselves what they want to eat and how much of it they are willing to eat.
Furthermore, kid food does not have to be “kid food” and even though some adults don’t believe that kids would willingly choose whole-wheat noodles or a grilled salmon option, the JW Marriott’s Kids menu suggests otherwise.
If you give the kids the option to be in control of what they will eat, says Glassman, then kids will learn how to eat right on vacation.
JW Marriott has a Fun, Creative Approach to Kids Meals
With this idea in mind, the entire JW Kids Menu is controlled to keep off the calories, but allows for the freedom of children’s choice. Ranging from its food-presentation and choice, as well as the accompanying art-themed activity sheet, these features all encourage children to be in control of what they’re going to eat during their JW Marriott vacation. The menu is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and operates on a mix-and-match system.
Kids begin with a “JW Kids Nosh,” a section that may include fresh-cut cucumber or carrot sticks, with a low-fat yogurt ranch dip or cheese and grapes on the side. An activity book with an “art museum” theme accompanies their nosh; kids are their own “curators” as they work on fine-art themed activities, emphasizing creativity. The creativity doesn’t just stop at the activity book as kids are not only given standard menu options, but also the ability to mix-and-match a meal based on comfort food standards with a healthy twist.
Kids can choose to dine on turkey meatballs and pair it with sweet potato fries and cherry tomatoes, or grab grilled organic chicken, steamed broccoli trees, and a side of apple slices; the possibilities are endless and leave the kids in control of what they want to eat, thereby establishing healthy choices for the future.
JW Kids Menu Launch is Success with Grownups
So how well did this philosophy withstand the launch party? Surprisingly well. Media moguls and guest mommy bloggers watched as the Marriott's approach to “kid food” was warmly received by guests young and old alike.
Hosted at the JW Marriot Essex House in New York City, event planners created a delightful spread that reflected only some of the diverse food offerings soon to be the norm at JW Marriott resorts. Near the entrance were two nosh stations, a create-your-own granola mix corner as well as a selection of matchstick celery, cheese-sticks, carrots, and cucumbers with a medley of dips, and melon-ball pops with fruit yogurt sauce. Creative choice could be seen in action, and demonstrated Glassman’s approach to fostering healthier habits through individual choice.
While kid connoisseurs inhaled the cheese-sticks, the occasional cucumber or celery stick was also happily snacked on; the melon pops disappeared one after another and were replenished every so often.
At the granola station kids were able to construct their own mixes of healthy granola with dried fruits, nuts, and even chocolate chips. Pint-sized gourmands seemed to also enjoy this section and could be found munching on their creations throughout the event. I exercised my own “healthy choice” making capabilities as I fashioned a mix that was 1/3 granola, 1/3 dried bananas/ and 2/3 chocolate chips – oops.
There was a distinct absence of the sugary stuff at the event. Instead, kids were treated to special smoothies at their very own “Juice Bar,” where juice-makers masterfully created strawberry and raspberry smoothie sensations that were packaged in a cute souvenir cup for the little ones. I got to try a strawberry smoothie, which wasn’t too sweet but refreshing, especially when one realizes that these smoothies only really relied on a few ingredients: fresh strawberries, Greek yogurt, and a drizzle of agave. And the kids didn’t seem to mind the lack of refined sugar and other artificial sweeteners as I watched them hit up the juice bar more than once during their meal.
My Favorite Recipes from JW Marriott
Speaking of the meal — Glassman’s effort to present unconventional kid’s cuisine truly manifested itself in the “main course” offered to guests at the launch event: a stunning lemon roasted salmon with brown rice and green beans. It was a meal that was perfectly portioned for tinier tummies but never lacked in taste. I shared a skeptical look with the two chefs doling out the grub, but they assured me that kids would love it.
One bite and I could taste that Glassman’s recipe certainly didn’t sacrifice flavor for health — the salmon was complemented by a lemon-olive oil sauce, and its softness mellowed the crunch and texture of the green beans and the brown rice. Also the sauce happily seeped into just about everything, thus imbuing the green beans with a lemon-olive oil finish that certainly made them more appealing.
Other meal options to taste at this event included two sandwiches: a breakfast slider and a turkey on whole wheat. The combination of gluten free biscuit, egg, and Canadian bacon was an instant sensation with adults and kids alike who shamelessly gobbled up these pint-sized sandwiches.
The JW Marriott is certainly onto something big with portioning these itty bitty bites that are kid-friendly and also a reminder that this is luxury foods specially made for them and their little hands; parents also appreciated the tapa-sized portions and couldn’t help going back for more. The biscuit was crisp and contrasted beautifully to the soft egg and the savory bacon creating a delightful combination of texture that enhanced the taste.
Another play on texture-and-taste was the turkey on whole wheat, which was surprisingly well received, too. Now turkey sandwiches may evoke horrific memories of meager school lunches, of limp, turkey slices sandwiched between white bread and pasty cheese; adding “whole wheat” also leaves much to be desired, especially when trying to convince little ones to eat it instead of the usual white dough.
However, Glassman's recipe doesn’t sacrifice flavor at all with neat little finger-sandwiches enhanced by a tangy-honey mustard; this provides a base for a nice piece of smoked turkey that rests upon a clever bed of “hidden” vegetables: lettuce, tomato, and cucumber sticks. The soft whole wheat gives way to the cucumber crunch, followed by the symphony of flavor and texture presented by turkey, tomato, lettuce, and tangy mustard; it’s a sandwich that seems more suitable for an adult’s palette but was another kid-approved hit.
Will Traveling Kids Respond Well to the JW Marriott Menu?
Overall, it seemed that both the kids and parents were happy with Glassman’s selections at this launch party. Kids enjoyed themselves and no one went hungry, it seemed; pint-sized connoisseurs raved about the meal enthusiastically and hurriedly revisited stations for seconds and thirds. But the question remains: even when given the choice, will kids still make use of this program?
Skeptical parents may be wary that the “magic fix” to any fussy meal problem can be solved in personalization. In the face of parent skeptics, Glassman stands firm in her belief that allowing children the choice in their meals with a dedicated children’s menu serving up healthy options is the ultimate way young travelers can learn to eat healthy. In addition, response to this creative kid’s menu has been positive, and is certainly much more appealing to young children who enjoy that feeling of customization with food specifically geared towards them and then having that all important option to choose what they would like to eat.
Still, healthy eating habits won’t change during one resort trip, but having the option and the ability to choose is certainly a step in the right direction to develop autonomous life-long eating practices.
It just might take a little creativity to send the message home that a healthy kid can make healthy food choices on their own.
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