The National Restaurant Association has just launched a program called “Kids Live Well” that includes changes to kiddie meals being served by 19 franchises in over 15,000 locations across the country. The list includes big chains like IHOP, Burger King, and Denny’s.
So what are the improvements?
To join “Kids LiveWell,” restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of items that meet qualifying criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. The criteria include the following components:
– Offer a children’s meal (an entrée, side and beverage) with 600 calories or less; two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; with limits on sodium, fats and sugar;
– Offer at least one other individual item with 200 calories or less, with limits on fats, sugars and sodium, plus contain a serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy;
– Display or make available upon request the nutrition profile of the healthful menu options; and
– Promote/identify the healthful menu options.
Here is an example: At Burger King, the default kid combo when ordering a burger used to be fries and soft drinks. Going forward parents will be asked what they prefer for their child. Maybe apple slices and milk. Or juice.
Will this move help the fight against obesity?
Probably not. But for families on road trips this summer with only fast food options when stopping along the freeway, there may be some slight nutritional relief.
According to Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Most restaurants already offer one or two healthy choices—but they are present amidst a minefield of high-calorie, salty, high-fat options.
Which means it is still much easier for parents (and the kids) to opt for the greasier choice, rather than the healthier one. Let’s admit it, who wants to eat mealy apple slices compared to a fresh batch of hot fries?
Bottom line: Kids Live Well is a nice PR move by the industry. It does not require massive menu changes by restaurants so it was cheap to implement. Regardless, if employees and parents will now be slightly more aware that at least one good choice awaits, the campaign has some redeeming value.