Ever sit in a restaurant with your kids and wonder what on the kid’s menu may be even remotely healthy?It seems every place you go, whether it is fast food, fast casual or even more upscale, the choices for kids seem to revolve around high sodium, high fat, foods. Usually with cheese! Burgers, grilled cheese, cheese sauce etc dominate the menu.For those with dairy allergies, this can be a problem. Though those foods are the ones they usually like to eat, if you have them eating healthier foods at home, they may want them out as well! I remember once asking for my son’s grilled cheese to be made on wheat bread and being told “no”, because they used a “special” white bread (smaller size) than adult bread for their kids’ meal. Puzzled???I was, and ended up ordering him the “adult” grilled cheese on wheat. Another time, I was told the same thing when I tried to get a peanut butter and jelly on wheat. I know plenty of people who cart food items around in their bags just so they have options for their kids, whether it was for allergies, health or other reasons.
Well, for those who want healthier options in a kid size portion, a new program is here to help out parents. Finally!
Just under 20 “brands”, most well known, now offer items that fit a certain criteria based on the 2010 USDA Dietary Guides for Americans. In summary, the restaurant has to provide a complete meal (with options) that includes an entree, side and beverage that equals 600 calories or less and must include two or more servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and/or low fat dairy. Additionally, they must have choices that are lower in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fat. Some well known restaurants include Outback, Friendly’s, IHop, Burger King and Bonefish Grill.
Interestingly, McDonald’s did not yet make the grade, but recently announced that they will meet the criteria starting in September.
Of course, restaurants have always had healthy choices, they are just now making it a little easier for us to evaluate them. In addition to this site, which lists other restaurants that participate, check out healthydiningfinder.com, an excellent site with links to this program, as well as information on how to search healthy items for all members of your family, as well as for ones with specific health concerns as well. Happy dining!
Laura Zurita is a registered dietitian and Montgomery County mom to a 6 and a half year old. She and her family enjoy reading, geocaching, hiking, and watching the Philadelphia Phillies.