Make Dining Out Easier With Kids LiveWell

“I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the National Restaurant Association. I attended a live event and received a gift bag and promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.” www.momcentralconsulting.com

This past Monday marked a first for me.  For the first time in my blogging I went to an event as a blogger.  Sure, I get invited all the time to attend events; IMG_3134book signings, movie openers, fashion week in NYC, interviews with WWE stars but all were centered around my previous blog http://skyyogastudio.com.  Since I have shifted my focus from fitness studio owner to mom trying to attain a Masters degree in Montessori Education I have also shifted my blogging and so was born FamilyCanBFit. My family is very healthy, we rarely eat out these days (which is an achievement from our history of eating out at restaurants for dinners and 3 times a day on the weekends) and even when we do we do not patron the regular mainstream restaurants that most Americans clamor to.  We eat at small independent healthy geared joints, all have to be vegan or have vegan options on the menu.

Not being a naive mom I know this is not the case for everyone.  I also know that the average parent doesn’t have the decades of training and certifications in health, nutrition and exercise that I do – so eating out can really be a double minefield.  There is the stress of taking children out to eat (will they jump off the back of the booth) and the stress of finding a place they will enjoy eating. There is nothing I dislike more than wasting money on a child who refuses to eat a meal out so we have narrowed our restaurant choices and what our 3 kids are allowed to order (based on prior eating performances and I don’t use that word lightly, my kids provide dinner theatre when they don’t like a meal).

Spotlight stage left, enter Kids LiveWell!

Healthful kids’ meals are the No. 3 restaurant food trend in 2013 for both full-service and limited-service restaurants. Children’s nutrition and whole grain items for kids’ meals ranked in the top 10 of the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2013” chef survey for fullservice.

The first restaurants in the Kids LiveWell program offer a total of 342 healthful children’s menu items, including 390 servings of fruit and vegetables, 144 servings of lean protein, 70 servings of low-fat dairy and 48 servings of whole grain. To date, more than 120 restaurant brands representing nearly 40,000 locations nationwide participate in the program, and participants include independent operators and national chains from quick-service to casual and family dining concepts, and even a Children’s Museum and group of theme parks.

I’m not a fan of dairy, even before I was a vegan, and there is growing evidence in support of cutting this bovine beverage out of our primate diet:

Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health have labeled the milk recommendations a “step in the wrong direction.”  One the most prominent critics is Walter Willett, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology and head of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. “One of the main arguments for USDA recommendations is that drinking milk or equivalent dairy products will reduce the risk of fractures. But in fact there’s very little evidence that milk consumption is associated with reduced fractures,” Willett tells WebMD.

There is also a hypothesized link between cow’s milk and type I Juvenille Diabetes. A study, published in the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, has shed light on a possible new mechanism behind this connection. This study highlights the problem associated with drinking the milk of another species. The protein composition within cow’s milk — particularly the beta-casein A1 molecule — is radically different than that found within human breast milk.

Why mention these facts? I believe it is each parent’s duty to raise their children to the best of their ability and to investigate what is healthiest.  While the KidsLiveWell App can make eating out healthier, and does force restaurants to take a look at what they are feeding our children, it doesn’t necessarily equate to the healthiest meal for your kids. Granted the program limits unhealthy fats and sugars but it doesn’t necessarily ban them.  High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils never pass my kids lips for instance.  We also stay away from food dyes and any ingredient we can not pronounce, most of the restaurants we eat at serve organic produce as well.

Does that mean that a family like mine can not get use out of the Kids LiveWell App? We absolutely can. For starters Qdoba is a Kids LiveWell participant. I spoke with one of their people at the blogger event and was impressed to find that everything is made fresh in house. “Our beans come dried in a large sack, we don’t buy canned, we soak them in house.  Our pork is roasted in house, we don’t buy it from some guy down the road. This is one reason we have a lot of flavor. You can go on our website and see all of the ingredients.  I mean all of them, we don’t leave anything out, it’s all listed there.”IMG_3131

Qdoba is actually one restaurant chain that we have eaten at while traveling.  It is nice to know that a portion of their menu is vegan including their soup and made items are made with fresh ingredients. In the very short time I had to walk around the NRA floor I was able to spot a few signs for Kids LiveWell at other vendors’ booths.

So what makes it onto a Kids LiveWell menu? Items must meat these criteria:

Full Kids’ Meals (entrée, side option and beverage):

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤10% of calories from saturated fat
  • <0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤770 mg of sodium
  • 2 or more food groups (see below)

Side Items:

  • 200 calories or less
  • ≤35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤10% of calories from saturated fat
  • <0.5 grams artificial trans fat
  • ≤35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤250 mg of sodium
  • 100% fruit, vegetables or juice; and low fat (1%) and skim milks are permitted
  • 1 food group (see below)

Fruit, Vegetables, Whole Grains, Lean Protein and Low-Fat Dairy:
Full meals must include two sources, and a la carte sides must include one source of the following:
Fruit:
Fruit (includes 100% juice):
½ cup or more = 1 star
Vegetables:
½ cup or more = 1 star
Whole Grains:
Contains whole grains = 1 star
Lean protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish, seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, eggs):
At least 2 ounces meat, 1 egg equivalent, 1 oz nuts/seeds/dry bean/peas = 1 star (lean as defined by FDA)
Dairy:
Lower-fat dairy (1% or skim milk and dairy): ½ cup or more = 1 star (while not considered low-fat, 2% milk is allowed if included in the meal and the meal still fits the full meal criteria)
                                     Deep fried items not permitted

Did this post whet your appetite for finding healthy kids meals? Well, here is where to find Kids LiveWell:

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