The National Restaurant Association (with the help of Healthy Dining) has kick-started a new program designed to foster healthier eating habits among children. The program is called “Kids LiveWell,” and through it, participating restaurant brands have agreed to make healthier meals and food items available on their kids’ menus.
When I was a kid, ordering a meal or item from a restaurant menu was a fairly simple process: if it looked appetizing in the picture, I ordered it. That was all. I wasn’t overly concerned about the nutritional value in what I was eating, and my parents weren’t all that apprehensive about my menu choices either. Looking back on it, I realize how spoiled I was to be able to make some of the indulgent menu choices I did.
Things aren’t as simple for kids nowadays. Parents have become more watchful of their children’s eating habits, and the “point-to-the-food-you-want” menu mentality is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Modern-day parents have immediate access to the kind of nutritional information and dietary advice that moms and dads of yesteryear would never have dreamed possible. It makes sense then, that contemporary parents want their children (and their children’s children, and so on) to have a head start on a healthier lifestyle.
The “Kids LiveWell” program aims to help in this regard. Here’s a snippet from the official news release:
“‘Kids LiveWell’ 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. “More than 15,000 restaurant locations are participating in this initial launch and offering their young guests a selection of Kids LiveWell choices, and we look forward to announcing additional restaurants and menu options in the coming months.”
Which restaurants have joined?
So far, a total of 18 restaurant chains have joined the initiative: Burger King, Chili’s, IHOP, Outback Steakhouse, Denny’s, and Joe’s Crab Shack are among them. These branded eateries will be adding newer and more healthful meal choices and side dish selections for younger patrons. The new menu items will meet certain nutritional criteria set by the program.
What criteria might that be?
There’s definitely going to be an emphasis on more of the following: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and lower-fat dairy. Check out Healthy Dining’s Kids LiveWell criteria page for a full rundown of the nutritional standards that participating restaurants have to meet.
It’s all well and good to see such a large-scale initiative embraced by some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry, but whether this will pan out the way that the National Restaurant Association hopes is still anyone’s guess. Are parental concerns enough to compel more brands to jump on the bandwagon? Perhaps.
One thing’s for sure: change is on the horizon. Menu offerings were bound to become healthier sooner or later, and the “Kids LiveWell” program is bold a step in the “healthy” direction. With a little luck, we’ll see more restaurants adhering to the criteria outlined by the program. And with a lot of luck, we’ll see eating habits take a more nutritional turn in years to come.
Is Kids LiveWell on the right track for children’s health? Should restaurant brands offer something else to encourage healthy eating habits?