10 great spots to enjoy healthy grub

Why is the worst food in a restaurant usually on the kids’ menu? As a mom, I can attest to the trap families fall into when kids see menus offering waffles with whipped cream and plates piled high with French fries.

More good eats

Other restaurants offering HFFK menu items include Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, Convito Cafe & Market and Farmhouse. For information, visit healthyfareforkids.com.

The question also troubled Chicago moms Diane Schmidt and Sarah Stegner, who developed Healthy Fare for Kids, a program aimed to make healthier meals accessible to kids everywhere.

Healthy Fare for Kids offers nutritious and delicious options in many Chicago-area restaurants and concessions and is expanding nationally.

My family of four tried the dishes below and were delighted. Our picky eater ate chicken in non-nugget form and our son is now putting edamame on the grocery list.

Look for the HFFK logo when eating out and enjoy!

Prairie Grass Café

601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook

Edamame and a Combo Plate with apples, carrots, bananas, cheese and cucumbers are the kids’ appetizers that catapult kids’ meals to a good start in this modern, casual establishment that boasts fine dining flavors. Whitefish with grapefruit, carrots and capers, petite filet with mushrooms and heirloom carrots, and chicken cutlet with apple slaw are the HFFK options here.

It was the first time we ordered my son his own steak, and honestly we debated about that, but he devoured it. The fact that our super-picky daughter ate the panko crusted all-natural chicken cutlet is a sign of how good it looked and tasted. We parents felt much better about her eating that than a deep fried nugget. The whole family walked away with a new perspective on good eating after this meal.

Brookfield Zoo

8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield

Save the stress of packing lunches and eat up the wholesome HFFK items offered at five eateries around the zoo. This past summer, Brookfield Zoo introduced HFFK meals that are so colorful and tasty you’ll want to gobble one up yourself. Sandwiches are served on whole grain breads, adorned with pineapple or spinach, and look as fresh as they taste. Sides like jicama apple salad, quinoa salad, hummus and cucumbers, carrots with ranch and a fresh fruit cup round out nutritious, delicious meals. The baked chicken tenderloin strips were a runaway hit with my two monkeys.

Look for rotating, seasonal HFFK items next time you visit the zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 N. Clark St., Chicago

When little bellies start rumbling, visit Park Place Café or Café at Wild Things for a turkey sandwich or cheese quesadilla with fruit and carrots. Kids’ meals with fruit or veggies instead of French fries are one of the staples of HFFK. It’s so nice to see concessions that offer sensible options so that families can eat healthy quickly and easily when out and about.

Shedd Aquarium

1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Not only does Shedd Aquarium’s Right Bite program offer ocean-friendly, sustainable seafood, but Shedd also partnered with HFFK to provide aquarium guests 12 and under with healthy choices. Grilled mini shrimp skewers with mango dipping sauce and sautéed fish patty mini sliders with guacamole will be on the fall menu. Talk about unique and flavorful options!

Nookies Restaurants

Old Town, Edgewater, Lincoln Park and Lakeview locations

Brunch with the kids is the best when you don’t have to fight off requests for chocolate chips and whipped cream. HFFK items here include scrambled egg with multigrain toast and fruit, a berry and yogurt bowl with granola, oatmeal with raisins and fresh berries, a grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and fresh veggies, as well as a veggie burger with fruit.

Had sugary options been offered, our kids would have been vying for those. Instead they enjoyed beautifully plump berries with their meals for a naturally sweet start to the day.

Uncommon Ground

Lakeview and Edgewater locations

Tiny diners will love healthy versions of kids’ favorites, like mini beef burgers, griddled chicken tenders and scrambled eggs with Cheddar Grove cheese. Fresh fruit, local veggies and smoked tomato ranch dipping sauce make sides even more scrumptious.

Our daughter couldn’t get enough of the juicy fruit and kept asking for more. Moms and dads will applaud the Edgewater location for being home to the first certified organic rooftop farm in the U.S. Savor some suds at the Lakeview location, home to GreenStar Brewing organic brewery.

Frontera Grill

445 N. Clark St., Chicago

Even though the HFFK items aren’t labeled on the menu, families will quickly see that Frontera Grill offers tasty and nutritious options for kids. Start meals off with a bang by ordering the kids’ tortilla soup with chicken and avocado. Jicama, pineapple and cucumber slices with lime is another fresh, flavorful appetizer to dive into. For dinner, kids will get a kick out of the griddle-baked cheese quesadilla with black beans. Our son devoured it.

Harvest Room

7164 W. 127th St., Palos Heights

Harvest Room is a treasure of farm-to-table, fresh-from-scratch goodness and their kids’ menu is one of the healthiest I’ve seen. Egg breakfasts come with turkey sausage or oatmeal. Grass-fed burgers, grilled white fish and free range chicken breasts are offered with sides like soaked grain salad and homemade applesauce.

Of course, my son opted for the hot dog, but it was grass fed, uncured and came with cucumbers, a fresh bun and a healthy side of his choice.

O’Hare International Airport

CIBO Express

Terminal 2 and 3

Apple chicken salad on a mini whole grain roll with grapes, celery sticks and Justin’s Peanut Butter and a Tofu and Vegetable Kabob box are some of the exceptional offerings I wanted to try, too.

Pickier eaters may gravitate towards the Black Forest ham sandwich or free-range chicken snack box. The roasted turkey sandwich is served on gluten-free bread. These tasty meals for traveling families will make all even the littlest members want to get onboard with healthy eating.

Midway International Airport

The first airport concessionaire to earn HFFK as well as F.I.T. City designation, Midway International Airport boasts six restaurants with fresh, tasty choices.

Gone are the days of the only options in the airport being greasy grub. Tuna sandwiches, whole wheat vegetable wraps and fruit and yogurt parfaits are great grab-and-go meals.

Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.
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