Kids LiveWell: National Restaurant Association Joins Fight Against Childhood Obesity

The restaurant industry wants to be part of the solution when it comes to childhood obesity. On July 13, 2011 the National Restaurant Association announced a new healthy menu initiative focused on improving food choices for children called Kids LiveWell.

As a registered dietitian, I can not explain how happy this makes me. It is definitely a move in the right direction, and hopefully a spark that will ignite a healthier lifestyle for all.

Know the Facts

Nationally, 17% of children, 2-17 years old, are considered obese. In Michigan, 10-15% of children are obese. These number have tripled in the last 30 years, which is why advocating for healthier options for children while dining out is so important. This is also an opportunity for all people to make healthier and more nutrient-dense choices as a family. I know this can be difficult at times, but leading by example is a good way to start.

Dining Out is Here to Stay

With the busy lifestyles that Americans lead, going out to eat is the norm. When we dine out, there is less control – especially with kids menus. Think about it: not only are portions out of control, but the food is usually higher in fat and sodium. Most kids menus have french fries, burgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese; but now with the Kids LiveWell initiative, there are more nutritious choices.

The following 18 restaurants are part of the inaugural Kids LiveWell program:

  1. Au Bon Pain*
  2. Burger King*
  3. Burgerville
  4. Chevy’s Fresh Mex
  5. Chili’s*
  6. Corner Bakery Cafe
  7. Cracker Barrel*
  8. Denny’s*
  9. El Pollo Loco
  10. Friendly’s
  11. IHOP*
  12. Joe’s Crab Shack*
  13. Outback Steakhouse*
  14. The Silver Diner
  15. Sizzler
  16. T Bones
  17. Z Pizza
*Restaurants found in Michigan

If you click on the restaurants above, it will show you what menu items they carry that fall into the Kids LiveWell criteria – items like grilled chicken sandwiches, scrambled egg whites, grilled shrimp, and corn on the cob – just to name a few.

Nutrition Criteria

To be a part of the Kids LiveWell healthy menu program, restaurants must serve foods that obey the following nutrition criteria for full kids meals (entrée, side option and beverage):

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 770 mg of sodium
  • 2 or more food groups

Entrees must include two sources, such as:

  • Fruit: > ½ cup = 1 star (includes 100% juice)
  • Vegetable: > ½ 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):  > 2 ounces meat, 1 egg equivalent, 1 oz nuts/seeds/dry bean/peas = 1 star (lean as defined by USDA)
  • Low-fat dairy (1% or skim milk and dairy):  > ½ 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)

Kids LiveWell nutrition criteria for side items:

  • 200 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 250 mg of sodium
  • 1 food group (see below)

It is not too late for you and your family. Keep thinking of ways to get your family to eat healthier because a family that eats well together and plays well together will be happier and healthier together, too.

What do you think of the Kids LiveWell program? Would you be more apt to go to one of the restaurants listed above because of it?

Photo Credit:  sean dreilinger

LEAVE A COMMENT

Read 3 Comments

  1.  
    Diabetes and Obesity is now affecting the babies and children in record numbers. It is impossible to lose weight in the USA due to filthy food chemicals approved by the Government   You can lose weight…how?   Science study in Europe showed the best way to keep weight off is with a diabetes diet for NON DIABETICS!   why?   The blood sugar in people without diabetes still controls how much fat the body holds. A filmmaker’s diet has caused a reversal of body fat in thousands in 10 countries     SEE HERE 
    http://spirithappy.org/wp/?p=1149

    1. Thanks for sharing this davee44. I will definitely check out the study. 

      As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, I alwasy say following a “diabetic” diet is really just a healthy eating plan for everyone. It is well-balanced with plenty of essential nutrients and controlled portions and calories. :o)

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