Kids Meals: Fast Food Chains Swap Junk Food for Nutrition

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
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Kids' meals across the nation are about to get a makeover as part of a new campaign targeting childhood obesity. Over 15,000 restaurant and fast food chains nationwide have pledged their commitment to help bring healthier menu options to children.

Created by the National Restaurant Association the “Kids Live Well” campaign is a nationwide movement being led by Burger King, Denny's, Au Bon Pain, Chili's, IHOP, Outback and other popular restaurant chains. Campaign participants have all agreed to offer and promote kids' meals that follow a specific set of nutritional guidelines as well as work with registered dieticians to help make appropriate changes to their menu.

"Accessibility to nutritious menu options that don't compromise taste, value or variety is an important step to improve the well-being of future generations," said Denny's senior director of product marketing and strategy David Coltrin. "We're excited to work with the Kids Live Well program and showcase healthier alternatives to some celebrated American classics."

In order for restaurants to qualify for the program they must offer at least one children's meal under 600 calories which includes two servings of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy.They must also offer an additional item under 200 calories that contains one serving of either fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protien or low-fat dairy. Sodium, fat and sugar are also limited on the menu items.

In order to adapt to these new criteria fast food giant Burger King says they plan to stop automatically including french fries and soda with kids' meals. Instead, will give parents healthier alternatives such as fruit slices or milk to choose from when making meal selections.

Other restaurant chains, such as IHOP have already identified a few items which meet criteria and with the help of a dietician hope to roll out further options by the end of the year.

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“‘Kids Live Well’ underscores that restaurants can be part of the solution to ensuring a healthier generation and providing consumer choice in dining options,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

While dining out with their children parents can quickly identify Kids Live Well options by a signature red apple logo that will be placed next to qualifying menu items. These items can also be searched for ahead of time by going to HealthyDiningFinder.com

In addition, restaurants have committed to help promote the new items by offering them during the ordering process, placing posters inside their stores, and through the use of other media outlets.

“This is a great start to help empower consumers—kids and parents especially—with more healthier choices at restaurants,” said Dr. Robert C. Post, Deputy Director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “We hope this is a trend toward new items and voluntary reformulations in reducing food components and nutrients that pose health concerns.”

However, notably absent from the campaign is McDonald's which has been heavily criticized for targeting children in fast food campaigns. Spokesperson Ashlee Yingling told the LA Times that they were choosing not to participate because they already offer “balanced menu options” for kids.

For more information visit http://www.restaurant.org/foodhealthyliving/kidslivewell/

Image source: WikiMedia

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