It’s hard enough to get children, especially toddlers, to eat a healthy meal at home. But the challenge multiplies when the meal is coming at a restaurant.
Kids’ menus often are dominated by pizza, chicken fingers, fries, mac and cheese, sodas and whole milk.
Where’s the fruit? The veggies? The less sugary drinks?
In 2011, the National Restaurant Association started Kids LiveWell, an initiative encouraging restaurants to offer “better-for-you meals” on their kids’ menus — making it easier for parents and caregivers when eating out with their children.
This month, the association updated the program to Kids LiveWell 2.0.
“For nearly a decade, chefs have identified ‘kids nutrition’ in the top 20 food trends annually, underscoring the importance of our youngest patrons and the choices their parents are seeking from restaurants,” Marvin Irby, interim president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said in a news release.
The program now mandates that menus include two meals and two sides that meet Kids LiveWell’s criteria for dietary requirements. Other new criteria for kids’ menus include:
• Only approved beverages are water, 1% low-fat or nonfat milk, and 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
• Foods with industrially produced trans fats are not allowed.
• Foods getting their calories from saturated fats are limited.
• Foods getting their calories from added sugars are limited.
• Sodium content has been lowered for meals and sides by 10% to meet public health recommendations.
The association reports there are 13,000 restaurants in the U.S. with Kids LiveWell-approved menu items. These have until Jan. 1 to get their menus re-certified.
Look for the Kids LiveWell logo beside approved items on menus. It has been recommended for eateries that qualify for the program to use a carrot icon to designate the meals, sides and beverages that meet the necessary criteria.
Here are a few national chains that offer the meals: Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, IHOP, Joe’s Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse and Panda Express.
I checked the kids’ menu at a local Applebee’s and found an apple icon to designate the eight menu items that qualify for the program. The menu also lists calories for those items; examples include the chicken corn dog (210 calories), broccoli trees (30 calories) and Motts’ applesauce cup (50 calories). All kids’ beverages qualified for the program. Visit tinyurl.com/3urx6hh4 for more information.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.