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Take the Family › Dea Birkett's Eating with Kids: Battling with the all Inclusive Buffet

Dea Birkett's Eating with Kids: Battling with the all Inclusive Buffet

I’m teaching my children portion control. It’s not an easy lesson, as the temptations here on Mexico’s Caribbean coast are mightier than the Mayan pyramids. It’s not the local cuisine served from street stalls, which is so piquant and fresh it leaves your tongue tingling. It’s the abundance of food at our all inclusive resort – a new experience for us. We usually stay in small hotels or apartments, where we pay for what we get.

A walk around the buffet at the Gran Bahia Principe Riviera Maya should be an excursion in itself, booked in advance. We could take a whole morning working our way from the spicy beef stir-fry at the Oriental station to the refried beans, salsa and tostados at the Mexican station. On the way, we pass the Pasta station, Pizza counter, Sushi bar. And that’s only the main meals. There’s a whole other territory for desserts. This is a resort that boasts 24-hour ice cream machines in the brochure.

The real problem is, the food is fab. It’s not rows of indistinguishable deep fried shapes and huge metal containers of tepid chips. It’s delicious and – if eaten in the right amount – very good for you. What could be a better breakfast than a spoonful of guacamole, salsa of fresh tomatoes and herbs, and a flour tortilla? But this is just the first port of call. The kids then go on a round-the-world tour of different cuisines. My teenager Storme, spotting me scowling at the pyramid on her plate, reminds me that a little over indulgence is one of the joys of being on holiday.

The grown-ups aren’t giving a very good example, piling their plates with four freshly cooked pancakes, soaked in too much maple syrup. Of course, I’m not at all tempted by the infinite free Margaritas around the swim-up bar at the pool. I just like the sound of lime juice being blended.

So what should I do? I can’t strap the kids to their dining chairs while I go up to the buffet for them. Storme has come up with a solution. They eat their way around the world, setting out from Mexico. So they can take one taco back to our table. Once that’s finished, they can cross the ocean to Italy for some spaghetti carbonara. Each item is an edible stepping stone, which has to be devoured before moving to the next leg.

So we’re not only practising portion control, we’re also learning a little bit of geography. Now I wonder if I can do the same with the cocktails. I’ll start with a Margarita, and sail over the sea to Cuba for a Mojito …

Dea Birkett
January 2009


The Birkett family went on a family all inclusive package to the Riviera Maya, Mexico with First Choice.

See Take the Family's family destination guide to Mexico.


By Dea Birkett

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