In celebration of National Nutrition Month, the National Restaurant Association announced its Kids LiveWell initiative has grown to 42,000 restaurant locations nationwide.The voluntary program, which provides a growing selection of healthful children’s menu choices in every state, now counts more than 145 restaurant brands as participants, including new national companies Cosi, Jamba Juice, and Rainforest Café, as well as Ovation Brands’ Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, and Old Country Buffet, among other regional chains and independent restaurants.
“As healthful kids’ meals are a top trend for restaurant menus, we are excited to see that the Kids LiveWell program continues to grow across the country,” says Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO. “The restaurant industry is passionate about expanding the variety of nutritious options available for children when dining out, and chefs have shown their ingenuity in creating healthful meals that their youngest patrons will enjoy.”
“We are thrilled to see the steady growth of families visiting the Kids LiveWell platform on HealthyDiningFinder.com to find the participating restaurants and qualifying menu choices,” says Anita Jones-Mueller, president of Healthy Dining. “The Kids LiveWell options emphasize healthful ingredients such as lean protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains—the ingredients that kids need lots of to be at their best. The site also features more than 4,000 Healthy Dining choices for parents—so they, too, can be at their best while serving as positive role models for their children.”
Building on the initiative’s positive momentum, the National Restaurant Association has also partnered with national foodservice companies to expand the reach of the Kids LiveWell program, including the Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, McCormick For Chefs, PepsiCo, and Sysco.
To highlight the restaurant industry’s continuing positive efforts in nutrition, the NRA created the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge along with founding partner McCormick For Chefs and sponsor Healthy Dining. The initiative is aimed at showcasing restaurant and foodservice companies’ culinary ingenuity of creating healthful options for children. The challenge takes an “industry tested, kid approved” approach with a panel of food and nutrition professionals selecting finalists and elementary school students choosing the winners in four categories.
The children’s tasting event and the announcement of the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge winners will take place Saturday, April 5, at the McCormick World of Flavors store in Baltimore.
To join Kids LiveWell, restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of qualifying menu items based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. The initiative focuses on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting total calories, unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium.
The National Restaurant Association launched the initiative in July 2011 in collaboration with partner Healthy Dining and 19 inaugural brand leaders representing 15,000 locations.