Trends: Kids’ Menus

Move over chicken fingers and fries. Kids’ menus have grown up with more inventive and healthier dishes than ever before. From miniature versions of regular menu items to those incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as gluten- and allergen-free offerings, little ones have it good when dining out these days.

Kids’ LiveWell

Turkey-SliderNow in its second year, the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program nears its fourth anniversary with an expansion of more than 100 restaurant participants, including Arby’s, Qdoba Mexican Grill and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (the program’s first museum foodservice operator), along with other restaurant chains and foodservice operators from various segments. The voluntary program, committed to providing families with a growing selection of healthful children’s menu choices when dining out, now includes 150 brands representing more than 42,000 locations nationwide.

To join Kids LiveWell, restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of items that meet qualifying nutrition criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. The NRA developed the program in collaboration with Healthy Dining, whose team of registered dietitians works with restaurants to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy in their menus. Parents can find healthful kids’ menu items through the Kids LiveWell app, which is geo-coded so users can find restaurants closest to them.

Trends in Kids’ Menus

  1. SalmonHealthful menus
  2. Whole grain items
  3. Fruit/vegetable side items
  4. Entrée salads
  5. Oven-baked items in mealsNearly 2/5 of consumers today say they are more likely to visit restaurants that have healthy menu options, even if they do not end up ordering a better-for-you offering. – Technomic

Kids LiveWell Menu Item Examples:

  • Silver Diner — bison sliders with low fat cheddar, reduced-sodium teriyaki salmon with rice and mixed vegetables, chicken pizza quesadilla with side salad
  • Outback Steakhouse — sirloin medallions and grilled chicken on the barbie with broccoli and apple juice
  • Bluewater Grill — grilled shrimp and salmon dipping sticks served with carrots and grapes
  • Boston Market — turkey with garlic dill potatoes and steamed vegetables
  • Casa Sol Y Mar — Mexican chicken pizza with fresh fruit and juice
  • Friendly’s — teriyaki turkey tips with broccoli and apple
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill — burritos with chicken, steak, pork, fish or tofu, black beans and juice

Kids LiveWell Menu Guidelines:

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 gram trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from sugar
  • ≤ 770 mg of sodium
  • Each meal must contain two sources of either fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy
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