The National Restaurant Association announced that the number of restaurant companies participating in its groundbreaking Kids LiveWell program has more than quadrupled since the initiative's launch last July. With the addition of new participants Applebee's and Chick-fil-A, the initiative has grown to 96 restaurant brands representing more than 25,000 locations nationwide.
"Participation in the Kids LiveWell program has exploded in a short period of time, with restaurant companies from across the industry eager to showcase their healthful choices," said National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney. "As a result, parents are finding a growing selection of healthful children's menu options of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy products."
In addition to Applebee's and Chick-fil-A, Kraft Foods is joining the program as the first foodservice supplier to develop Kids LiveWell-ready recipes for restaurant operators.
Sweeney announced the program's significant growth at the National Restaurant Association's 2012 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show. She was joined by representatives from Applebee's, Chick-fil-A and Kraft Foods, as well as by Anita Jones-Mueller, founder and president of Healthy Dining. The Association developed Kids LiveWell in collaboration with Healthy Dining, whose team of registered dietitians works with restaurants to identify and validate the qualifying menu choices. Participating restaurants and their qualifying items can be found on HealthyDiningFinder.com.
"Applebee's participation in Kids LiveWell complements our line-up of healthful menu options including our Under 550 Calories menu and Weight Watchers-endorsed entrees," said Jessica James, Applebee's corporate executive chef. "With nearly 1,900 locations in neighborhoods nationwide, Applebee's is making it easy for families to dine out – without over-indulging."
"We have worked hard in recent years to broaden our menu with well-balanced and more nutritious choices," said Jodie Worrell, Chick-fil-A's full-time dietician. "Our partnership with the Kids LiveWell initiative furthers our commitment of helping parents strike a balance between nutrition, convenience and price. We want parents to know that they do have a choice at Chick-fil-A. The Kids LiveWell program and the new app is an excellent resource for parents who need to find healthy dining alternatives while on the go."
"Kraft Foods applauds the Kids LiveWell initiative developed by the National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dining," explains Barb Pritikin, Sr. Marketing Manager at Kraft Foods. "In collaboration with our chefs and nutrition experts we developed recipes that provide kids' menu solutions that meet the Kids LiveWell criteria. Visit our website for more information on Kids LiveWell recipes: kraftfoodservice.com/kidslivewell."
Kraft Foods has designed several Kids LiveWell-ready recipes, including both entrees and side items. Corporate Executive Chef Barry Miles featured some of the offerings during a cooking demonstration following Sweeney's announcement.
Also today, the Association is unveiling a new Kids LiveWell App, which will connect on-the-go parents to restaurants offering healthful children's menu items under the Kids LiveWell program. The app is geo-coded so that users will be able to find restaurants nearest to them with Kids LiveWell menu items. The free app is available in the Android Market and iTunes app store. To download the app, visit: restaurant.org/kidslivewell.
To join Kids LiveWell, restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of items that meet qualifying nutrition criteria based on leading health organizations' scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.
In addition to Applebee's and Chick-fil-A, the following restaurant brands have joined Kids LiveWell in the past two months: Bluewater Grill (Newport Beach, CA); Boston Market (locations nationwide); Christy's Fine Food (Stonewall, MS); City Wok (Palm Desert, CA); Copper Door (Bedford, NH); Fairview Sophia's (Jackson, MS); First Watch (Bradenton, FL); Maui Tacos (New Rochelle, NY); Mimi's Cafe (locations nationwide); Pasha's (Miami, FL); Pita Pit (Coeur d'Alene, ID); Scranton's (Pascagoula, MS); SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment (SeaWorld San Antonio; Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA; SeaWorld San Diego; Discovery Cove; Aquatica Orlando; Busch Gardens Tampa; Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country-USA; and SeaWorld Orlando); Solar Drive-In (Springfield, MN); Thai Island (Holden, MA); The Back Door (Columbia, MS); Walnut Hills (Vicksburg, MS); Weidmann's (Meridian, MS); and Which Wich Super Sandwiches (locations nationwide).