Restaurants to add fruits, veggies, whole grains to kids menus

July 13, 2011 2:54:17 PM PDT
Parents can now order up more than fries and chicken nuggets for their children when dining out. More than a dozen restaurant chains -- including Burger King, Chili's IHOP, and Friendly's -- are adding healthier options to their children's menus.

At least 19 large restaurant chains and at least 15,000 restaurant locations will focus on increasing servings of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. The items will have less fats, sugars and sodium.

It's part of a voluntary program through the National Restaurant Association's new Kids Live Well program. Chicago area parents seem to approve the expanded menu options.

"Of course you've got to allow then to eat junk food here and there but I think healthy eating is good for them," Amy Walters, parent, said.

"I have a son who is a little overweight. I would do it," said Twanda Turner, parent.

To be part of Kids Live Well, restaurants must offer at least one menu item that is 600 calories or less and a side item 200 calories or less, http://healthydiningfinder.com.

"The parent really is the goalkeeper for many decisions. We know 7 out of 10 adults are saying when they dine out they are trying to chose healthy options," Diane Sweeney, CEO, National Restaurant Association said.

Restaurants are not only counting calories, but their food items will have less sugar sodium and fat.

"I'm really excited to see they are changing the composition of the meals, too," Cassie Vanderwall, Rush University Medical Center, said. Vanderwall said while the changes are a big step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before restaurant food is completely healthy. "For example the cut off for sodium is 770 milligrams. In a normal day, we're trying to get that less than 2,000. So that's still a very high salt meal."

The United States Department of Agriculture gave out with dietary guidelines earlier this year urging Americans to eat less salt. The restaurant association is expecting many more restaurants to join its new program and the world's largest burger chain, Oak Brook-based McDonald's, has yet to sign on.

A spokesperson says McDonald's will continue to provide balanced options for kids and the company will evaluate participation in the program in the future.

Nutrition criteria for kids' meals, side items

Nutritional Criteria for healthier kids' meals
From healthydiningfinder.com

    Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Full Kids' Meals (entree, side option and beverage):
  • 600 calories or less
  • less than, or equal to 35% of calories from total fat
  • less than, or equal to of calories from saturated fat
  • less than, or equal to 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • less than, or equal to 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • less than, or equal to 770 mg of sodium
  • 2 to or more food groups (see below)

    Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Side Items:
  • 200 calories or less
  • less than, or equal to 35% of calories from total fat
  • less than, or equal to 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • less than 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • less than, or equal to35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • less than, or equal to 250 mg of sodium
  • 1 food group (see below)

    Entrees must include two sources & sides must include one source of the following:
  • Fruit: More than 1/2 cup = 1 star (includes 100% juice)
  • Vegetable: More than 1/2 cup = 1 star
  • Whole grains: contains whole grains = 1 star
  • Lean protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish/seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, egg whites/substitute): Mor than 2 ounces meat, 1 egg equivalent, 1 oz nuts/seeds/dry bean/peas = 1 star (lean as defined by USDA)
  • Lower-fat dairy (1% or skim milk and dairy): More than 1/2 cup = 1 star (while not considered low-fat, 2% milk is allowed if included in the meal and the meal still fits the full meal criteria)

National Restaurant Association's Healthy Dining Finder: http://healthydiningfinder.com


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