(ARA) - Today's youth might be the first generation of American children to be less healthy than their parents, with childhood obesity more than tripling in the past 30 years. What's encouraging, however, is that this is a time of increased national focus on healthy eating - and it is going to take all stakeholders to make a true and sustained difference. With physical activity initiatives popping up in communities across the country and recently announced new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines on school lunches, there are more opportunities for children to thrive.
The restaurant industry is supporting those efforts by doing its part to address the nation's healthy living challenges and to help improve children's nutrition offerings.
Last July, the National Restaurant Association launched Kids LiveWell, a first-of-its-kind voluntary program in which participating restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of menu items for children that meet established nutritional criteria based on current dietary recommendations, including the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Well-balanced lifestyle habits established early in childhood, including healthy eating and physical activity, can help to reduce weight gain and the potential risk of disease later in life. The goal is to provide more healthful meal options for children, including a variety of nutrient-rich food groups, when families are dining out. Through Kids LiveWell, parents are provided with the confidence that they can take their families out to eat and enjoy a nutritious and tasty meal.
Across the country, participating restaurants have increased the variety and number of offerings on the children's menu when it comes to fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, while limiting unhealthy fats, sugar and sodium. By offering more options and pairing healthful foods together on one plate, restaurants are providing a real-life opportunity for parents to educate children about well-balanced nutrition choices while eating away from home.
Since last year's kick-off, the number of restaurants participating in the Kids LiveWell program has more than tripled and now stands at 68 restaurant brands representing more than 22,000 locations nationwide. The brands range from casual dining such as Outback Steakhouse and Denny's to neighborhood eateries, from quick serve restaurants like Burger King to fine dining establishments, and the variety and volume of brands is slated to grow as the program further evolves.
Parents can learn more at HealthyDiningFinder.com, which also has a mobile website for parents on the go. Follow the program on Twitter @KidsLiveWell and Facebook to stay informed of new participating restaurants and other health and wellness news.
Everyone can play an important role in turning the tide and nourishing the health and well-being of children and families. For restaurants, providing and highlighting healthful menu options can help parents and children select menu choices that help young patrons grow and thrive. Make yourself a part of the solution too by supporting the menu items and restaurants participating in the Kids LiveWell program and, if you don't see your family's favorite dining spot on HealthyDiningFinder.com, urge the restaurant to join the cause. By committing to healthful eating and encouraging kids to be more physically active, you are helping to provide healthier futures for children - one meal at a time.