Egg Nutrition Center Blog

“Kids LiveWell” Aims to Improve Eating Habits in Children through Healthier Restaurant Options

Family meals seem to be becoming more popular again; however they have a new face.  Many families are sitting together, but not at home. They are dining out in restaurants.   New measures are being taken to help the consumers make better choices.  “Kids LiveWell” was released this past week by the National Restaurant Association (NRA).  It is a new nationwide initiative that provides parents and children with a growing selection of healthful menu options when dining out.

Registered Dietitians assisted the restaurants in creating the choices for the kids menu and the restaurants are offering and promoting a variety of items that meet the qualifications.  The qualifying criteria are based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Kids LiveWell 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 (see below)

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)

Entrees must include two sources & sides must include one source of the following:

  • 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)
  • Lower-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)

Healthy Dining Finder has listed the “Inaugural Leaders” and new restaurants are going to be added weekly.   There are a variety of options for children.  Admittedly, it would have been nice if more eggs were included. Packed full of nutrients and affordable, eggs would be a great option for restaurants and parents.  Upon review, I only noted one restaurant had a regular egg option at breakfast.  The majority had egg white or substitute as related to the criteria of lean protein.  It is possible that a restaurant could include an egg if they were able to meet other criteria, but it could be difficult based on the food selection that a particular restaurant may have.

I personally see some benefits to this program.  Often the caloric content of adult meals is underestimated, as are kids meals. I think this awareness is a step in the right direction.  However from my previous experiences in working with families, I know that it often does not work for one person in the family to eat differently that the rest.  Will this help others in the family choose healthier choices?  If the adults or older teens are eating the high calorie, high fat options; what does this say to the child?  Perhaps more adults will utilize the Healthy Dining Finder website, not just for their kids but for themselves.

Author: Anna Shlachter MS, RDN, LDN