National Restaurant Association Unveils Revamped Kids LiveWell Initiative

The National Restaurant Association unveiled a major modernization of its Kids LiveWell initiative that makes it easier for caregivers and children to choose 'better-for-you' meals when dining out. The program, originally launched in 2011, is a successful industry solution to providing a wider range of menu options for families. This update brings the Kids LiveWell participation requirements in line with today's nutrition science.

"For nearly a decade, chefs have identified 'kids nutrition' in the top 20 food trends annually, underscoring the importance of our youngest patrons and the choices their parents are seeking from restaurants," saysMarvin Irby, Interim President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. "As the industry continues to learn more about nutrition, we're proud to offer this updated initiative to reflect the industry's increasing health standards and ensure that caregivers can be confident Kids LiveWell menu options are delicious and nutritious."

Restaurant operators with qualifying meals and sides certified by Kids LiveWell are validated by an approved third-party registered dietitian. Menu items that are certified to meet the Kids LiveWell criteria will help caregivers increase a child's consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy while limiting unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Key updates to the Kids LiveWell certifying criteria include:

Expanding the number of certified menu items: The program now requires that two meals and two sides are certified to meet the Kids LiveWell criteria.

Adding a default beverage policy: A default beverage policy for the kid's menu can only include water, low-fat or non-fat milk, or 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

Eliminating artificial trans fats: Following the FDA ban on artificial trans fats, industrially produced trans fat is no longer allowed in Kids LiveWell meals.

Removing fat calorie allowance: Along with removing trans fat allowances, the updated program no longer assesses total fat calories, but continues to limit calories from saturated fat.

Change to added sugar criterion: The new program no longer focuses on calories from total sugar and instead shifts to limits on added sugars.

Reduced sodium threshold: The new criteria lowers the sodium threshold for both meals and sides in an effort to reduce sodium by 10% in response to public health recommendations.

Changing the type of dairy products allowed: The new default beverage menu includes 1% and non-fat milk varieties only, following public health recommendations.

"Nutrition science has changed in the last 10 years, so we worked with the Association and restaurant representatives to identify the needed and impactful changes that should be made to bring the program up-to-date," says Maggie Gentile, MS, RD, LD, vice president of food and nutrition policy at Food Directions. "We also worked in collaboration with public health and consumer advocates to ensure the more stringent program aligns with the latest edition of the USDA and HHS Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The food-based requirements and nutrient thresholds also closely align with the criteria for the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI)."

Nearly 13,000 restaurants across the country have Kids LiveWell approved menu items. Restaurants with meals and sides certified in the original program must have any existing meals re-certified by Jan. 1, 2022.

"The Association is invested in helping the industry find solutions to issues related to health and nutrition," Irby adds. "Caregivers and children are more educated than ever about the food they choose for their lifestyles. So, we hope that restaurants of all sizes find value in participating in this free program and look forward to expanding its reach."

Caregivers with more questions about the Kids LiveWell updates will find answers here and restaurants wanting to find out how to get certified will find all the information they need here.

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