Young families dine out frequently and children enjoy having
their own menu. But when you think about a traditional kids'
menu-mac and cheese, fried mozzarella sticks, hot dogs and grilled
cheese-it won't win any nutrition awards.
Can restaurants help stem the childhood obesity epidemic
and otherwise help our youngsters eat better?
The National Restaurant Association says yes. It partnered
with nutrition website HealthyDiningFinder.com to create the Kids
LiveWell program, which sets standards for healthier kids' menu
items for both chain and independent restaurants.
"Kids LiveWell is about making the healthful choice the
easier choice. It's for providing, not just healthful options, but
different options that children will love," explains NRA director
of nutrition, Joy Dubost, Ph.D., RD. She points to sliders made
from bison meat, pasta dishes and grilled chicken with dipping
sauces. "We're really beginning to diversify what's offered for
Fresh fruit and vegetables are emphasized. Entrees are
limited to 600 calories, no more than 35 percent of which can be
Practicality also was considered, and taste
was paramount. "If the kids don't eat it, it won't
Kids LiveWell launched in July 2011 with 19 restaurants.
Now more than 100 brands are participating with almost 30,000
An app for that
The NRA's What's Hot in 2012 survey of 1,800 chefs from
the Culinary Federation was eye opening. Chefs named healthful
kids' meals third out of 220 trends. "Consumers are demanding them
and the restaurants are responding," explains Dubost.
Dubost points to the free Kids LiveWell app (which is
geo-coded) for Android and iPhone devices. "Parents can quickly
look on the app and see what restaurants provide those healthier
Luckily, it's easier than before to find healthful menu
choices for children even if the restaurant at which you're eating
is not a Kids LiveWell participant. Try:
Healthier lunches and dinners
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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