Diners with children are finding a growing list of kid menu options that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other healthful foods.
How often children are choosing those healthy items hasn’t been disclosed, but the number of restaurants participating in the Kids LiveWell initiative has quadrupled since its launch last July, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association.
The initiative includes 96 restaurant brands with more than 25,000 locations.
“Participation in the Kids LiveWell program has exploded in a short period of time, with restaurant companies from across the industry eager to showcase their healthful choices,” association president and chief executive officer Dawn Sweeney said in a news release. “As a result, parents are finding a growing selection of healthful children’s menu options of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.”
In addition to Applebee’s and Chick-fil-A, Kraft Foods has joined the program as the first foodservice supplier to develop Kids LiveWell-ready recipes for restaurant operators.
The NRA developed Kids LiveWell in conjunction with Healthy Dining, whose registered dietitians work with restaurants. Participating restaurants and their menu items are at HealthyDiningFinder.com.
To join Kids LiveWell, restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of items that meet qualifying nutrition criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.
Tracy Fox, president of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants LLC, Washington, D.C., said the Kids Livewell standards are a step in the right direction.
“Sodium is always a challenge, the calorie limits are pretty good and we always would like to see more fruits and vegetables and healthier options,” she said.
Fox said that restaurants haven’t disclosed how popular the Kids Livewell menu options have been so far.
“That’s the biggest concern, that we really don’t know what the uptake is,” Fox said.
Fox said there is a general trend in foodservice of kids ordering adult meals. Fox said that is unfortunate because the Kids Livewell standards don’t apply to adult menu items.
“I do think that is a concern and a question and (we) would really like to see a little more evidence in terms of the uptake before it is going to be broadly supported by the public health and nutrition community.”