The National Restaurant Association unveiled a new nationwide initiative that provides parents and children with a growing selection of healthful menu options when dining out. "Kids LiveWell," a program the Association launched in collaboration with Healthy Dining, highlights how restaurants are creating innovative solutions to provide better-for-you menu options

"'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."

"Kids LiveWell" is a first-of-its-kind voluntary initiative that shows the restaurant industry's commitment to offering healthful menu items for children, with a focus on increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.

"'Kids LiveWell' empowers parents to confidently make informed decisions about their children's meals as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle," said Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, and founder of Healthy Dining.

Sweeney and Jones-Mueller joined industry stakeholders, health advocates, parents and children at the National Press Club today to unveil the program and feature several "Kids LiveWell" choices from participating restaurants.

Inaugural "Kids LiveWell" leaders include the following 19 brands: Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Chevys Fresh Mex, Chili's Grill & Bar, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Friendly's, IHOP, Joe's Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery and zpizza.

To join "Kids LiveWell," restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of items that meet qualifying criteria based on leading health organizations' scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. Healthy Dining's team of registered dietitians has worked with participating restaurants to identify and validate the menu choices that meet the "Kids LiveWell" criteria. The criteria include the following components:

* Offer a children's meal (an entree, side and beverage) with 600 calories or less; two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; with limits on sodium, fats and sugar;

* Offer at least one other individual item with 200 calories or less, with limits on fats, sugars and sodium, plus contain a serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy;

* Display or make available upon request the nutrition profile of the healthful menu options; and

* Promote/identify the healthful menu options.

Dr. Robert C. Post, Deputy Director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), praised the new initiative.

"This is a great start to help empower consumers — kids and parents especially — with more healthier choices at restaurants," said Dr. Post. "This could provide a great push toward more healthier offerings at restaurants; we hope this is a trend toward new items and voluntary reformulations in reducing food components and nutrients that pose health concerns. And, the program's intent is a good complement to the Department's MyPlate and Dietary Guidelines messages — we need more choices to help shift eating patterns to healthier ones."

"'Kids LiveWell' is another example of the National Restaurant Association's work taking a proactive role in helping the industry deal with issues related to health and nutrition," Sweeney added. "We look forward to 'Kids LiveWell's' growth and success in enhancing the health of our nation's children and future generations."

Parents can find "Kids LiveWell" options in their communities by visiting the "Kids LiveWell" section on Participating restaurants can add the "Kids LiveWell" icon on their menus to indicate qualifying items, as well.

Source: National Restaurant Association