Healthy Kids

One out of every three children is now overweight or obese. Be part of the solution and find out how you can increase the healthfulness of your kids' meals.
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9 tips to help kids make healthful dining choices
As Featured in Nation's Restaurant News
Dining out with your child? With so many menu options, it can be overwhelming to choose the best one for your child.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the menu from registered dietitian Joy Dubost, the National Restaurant Association’s nutrition and food and healthy living director
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Childhood obesity: 10 ways your restaurant can make a difference
As Featured in Nation's Restaurant News
By Anita Jones-Mueller

Never before have our children’s health and quality of life been in jeopardy like they are now. For the first time in history, today’s kids are projected to have a shorter lifespan than that of their parents, primarily a direct result of poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. One out of every three children is now overweight or obese, which greatly increases risks of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity recently released a 124-page report with 338 science-based references. The report, “
Solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation,” provides an action plan detailing 70 recommendations to ultimately eradicate childhood obesity within the next two generations. By 2030, with the implementation of the stated recommendations, the White House task force projects that our nation can reduce the current childhood obesity rate of 20 percent to the 1972 rate of 5 percent.

The task force report emphasizes, “This is not the future we want for our children, and it is a burden our health care system cannot bear … This is not an easy challenge, but it is one that we can solve as a society … Everyday, approximately 11,000 children are born in America. We owe them our very best effort.”

White House task force recommendations for the restaurant industry

Three of the seventy recommendations stated in the task force report directly apply to the restaurant industry. These recommendations are:

* Restaurants and vending machine operators subject to the new requirement in the Affordable Care Act should be encouraged to begin displaying calorie counts as soon as possible.
* Restaurants should consider their portion sizes, improve children’s menus, and make healthy options the default choice whenever possible. The improvements are particularly important since one-third of meals are consumed in restaurants, including many meals eaten by children at fast-food establishments.
* The food, beverage, and restaurant industries should be encouraged to use their creativity and resources to develop or reformulate more healthful foods for children and young people.

The First Lady’s
Let’s Move! Initiative has made great strides – in just a few short months -- in educating the public on the importance of preventing and controlling childhood obesity. The initiative has already inspired many stakeholders, from schools to food companies to restaurants to community organizations, to begin implementing the recommendations included in the Task Force Report. Ultimate success in improving the health and quality of life of our nation’s children will depend on the efforts of all stakeholders. Every restaurant in the U.S. serving food to kids can contribute to this important initiative and truly make a difference for our future generations.

Ten strategies for increasing the healthfulness of your kids’ meals:

  1. Offer low-fat milk, 100% juice and water. A four- to six-ounce portion is appropriate for most kids. Avoid offering large portions of sugary drinks with free refills.
  2. Add vegetables. Most kids like carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, corn and potatoes. Find fun ways to present the nutrient-filled vegetables.
  3. Add fruits. Most kids like all types of fruits, so offer a rainbow of colors, including red (strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, apples), blue and purple (plums, grapes, blueberries,), yellow (pineapple, bananas) and orange (mango, peaches, nectarines, oranges, tangerines).
  4. Add whole grains. Many kids regularly consume whole grain breads, pasta and pizza crusts at home, and both parents and kids will appreciate this choice at your restaurant. Offering brown rice instead of white rice is another great way to increase the healthfulness of your kids’ meals.
  5. Serve appropriate ‘kid-sized’ portions. Three to four ounces each of the protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains will add up to a filling and balanced meal for children between the ages of four to ten.
  6. Reduce amounts of cheese, butter and spreads. Most restaurants can reduce the amount of cheese served on kids’ pizzas, grilled cheese and other selections. Additionally, limit or eliminate the amount of butter and spreads added to buns and sandwiches. Excess amounts of cheese, butter and spreads increase calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium.
  7. Eliminate fried foods … (except for small portions of fries). Most kids love French fries, so offer the fries in small portions, along with more fruits and vegetables as sides. Begin to eliminate other fried options, such as fried chicken, chicken nuggets, fried fish, etc.
  8. Offer gluten-free options. Some parents are exploring the benefits of reducing or eliminating gluten from their children’s diets. These families will appreciate that your restaurant offers gluten free choices.
  9. Serve healthier desserts. Offer low-fat frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit, sorbets, fresh fruit smoothies. Kids will love these great-tasting desserts and never know they are much lower in calories, fat and saturated fat than the typical desserts offered.
  10. Be creative. Engage your chef and culinary team. Talk to your young customers and their parents to find out what types of healthier ingredients they’d like to enjoy at your restaurant. Host a kids’ tasting event at your restaurant and let kids guide you in developing new items that are tasty and appealing.

Is your restaurant offering healthful kids’ meals? Are you exploring any creative ways to incorporate some of the strategies outlined above? Let me know! Email me at