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Are the 'Healthy' Kids' Meals at Restaurants Really Healthy?

By Expert HERWriter
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Children are our greatest resource! So it is so important to make sure they have good foundations for health at their disposal.

This will enable them to create healthy habits that they will continue throughout their lives.

In the last several years you might have noticed a wonderful push by prominent figures like First Lady Michelle Obama, Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray and others to bring a spotlight on healthy eating options for our children.

The programs sponsored by these celebrities are based on their commitment to teach children and parents simple ways to improve health and nutrition. Positive energy generated from these programs contributes to their success.

In July of 2011 The National Restaurant Association launched their Kids LiveWell program in collaboration with Healthy Dining to create healthy food choices at restaurants.

This is a voluntary program, and over 25,000 restaurants have signed up to participate. Restaurants can be included as long as they offer at least one healthy entrée and one healthy side dish. The rest of their menus can remain the same.

Once the restaurant has become part of the network they can market or advertise themselves as part of the Kids LiveWell program.

In June 2012, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published a report highlighting what they call the five worst “healthy” fast-food kids' meals.

The report is a reminder that we as consumers must always continue to read labels and ask questions about what we are eating even when it might sound like a healthy option.

According to the report, several of the "healthy" food choices at national chains have high levels of sodium, cholesterol and fat. For example, the Chick-fil-A's Grilled Nuggets Kids Meal has about the same amount of cholesterol as a McDonald’s Big Mac.

The report provided several of these shocking statistics to remind parents that restaurants which have traditionally focused on fast-foods and not healthy fare are not the best choices to create healthy lifestyles for our children and families.

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EmpowHER Guest

I appreciate your piece, and your goal to inform readers about healthful menu items for kids. Unfortunately, the report you cite infers that all of the menu items mentioned are all part of the Kids LiveWell program, which is not accurate. Every item in the Kids LiveWell program must meet strict nutrition based on the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines, and be certified by a third-party dietician.

But even beyond Kids LiveWell, research and trend data shows that the restaurant industry is making great strides in offering children's menu items that include more lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, as well as lower sugar, fat and sodium.

Many of the meals mentioned in the PCRM report have protein and nutrients to nourish kids versus the "junk food" items to which they have been compared. Most parents understand that a meal with fresh apples, juice and a lean protein is a much more nutritious option than the snack food ("two twinkies") mentioned in the study.

It should also be noted that PCRM's agenda is to push a vegetarian and/or vegan diet, which is presumably why there is a strong focus on cholesterol. The cholesterol in the menu items is from the protein sources, and kids need protein (whether it's from lean meat or as part of a vegetarian diet) to grow and thrive.

July 19, 2012 - 4:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

I'm very thankful with this post you have shared to us. I really value the heath of my children so much, especially their dental health. That is why I am really watching the foods that they eat because I don't want them to suffer in the end. I've also constant in visiting http://www.drsherriworth.com/ for the proper guidance and check ups of their dental health to keep my mind at peace with its condition. That is how much I love my children.

July 18, 2012 - 9:58pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.