I am one of the lucky ones. My sons do not fall under the category "picky eaters." Although each has different tastes and preferences, they all pretty much eat a well-balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables. My husband and I have raised them in the school of "everything in moderation" so they enjoy candy, the occasional soda and fast food lunches on weekends. None are obese; nor are they scrawny.
I believe one of the reasons for their well-balanced diets is the fact that we do a lot of cooking at home. We have managed (until recently) to avoid the trap of picking up dinner at the drive-thru or doing fast casual dining several times a week. But now that their schedules continue to get busier and our time at the dinner table seems to disappear more often, I've realized just how difficult it is to find quick, healthy, economical food options, especially on the run.
It was with this realization in mind that I jumped at the chance to attend an event hosted by the National Restaurant Association to promote their Kids LiveWell program. Launched in July 2011 with 19 restaurants, the association announced that the count now stands at 96 different brands, with locations in every state.
According to their website, "The Kids LiveWell choices emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, as well as meet stringent nutritional criteria." The dieticians present at the press conference stressed that qualifying entrees must be under 600 calories with less than 35 percent coming from fat, less that 10 percent from saturated fats, and less than 35 percent coming from total sugars. Meals must contain fewer than 770 mg of sodium and contain at least two food groups. This is all excellent news with childhood obesity rates at an all-time high.
For a restaurant to qualify on the Kids LiveWell Plan, they must offer at least one child's entrée plus a side dish. But a quick look at the menus from participants makes it clear that most places offer even more. Apple fries, fresh steamed veggies and grilled (instead of fried) chicken are becoming more common as consumers (parents) demand better options.
And, in a nod to parents like me who are spending more time on the road and away from home, the restaurant association unveiled a mobile app to help us identify locations and menu items. Free to install and quick to download, the Kids LiveWell app immediately located my position and found 21 restaurants within a few miles of my house that have qualifying entrees. When I tapped a pin, I was taken to the restaurant's exact address along with a list of menu choices. Terrifically convenient.
As I commit to making healthier choices for myself and for my kids, it's nice to have restaurants standing by my side.
For a complete list of participating restaurants or more information on the new mobile app, visit http://www.restaurant.org/foodhealthyliving/kidslivewell/index.cfm
Disclosure: I received compensation from the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell program for my time reviewing and writing about their program. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.