Today the National Restaurant Association announced the new “Kids LiveWell” nationwide program that makes new healthier kid’s menu options available on many restaurant menus.  Burger King, Chili’s, and Outback Steakhouse along with 16 other brands have climbed on board.

Here’s what they had to do to qualify:

1) offer a (at least one) children’s meal (entrée, side and beverage) that is 600 calories or less, and includes two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy, with limits on sodium, fats and sugar.

2) Offer at least one other individual item that is 200 calories or less, with limits on fat, sugars and sodium, plus contain a serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy.

3) Display or make available on request nutrition information on meal options.

4) Promote/identify the healthful menu options.

Dr. Robert C. Post, Deputy Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion stated that “this could provide a great push toward more healthier offerings at restaurants.”

But will healthier meal options for kids at restaurants really help Americans get on track with healthier eating?

In a recent Reuters Health article, Christine Hoefkens and Dr. Wim Verbeke, two authors of a study on menu labels and meal choices had this to say:

 “Although it is important to inform consumers about the nutritional characteristics of the food offered, providing nutrition information in less healthy food environments such as fast-food restaurants is unlikely to alter consumers’ food choices.”

The truthfulness of this statement is acknowledged by many parents.  How often do kids want the apples instead of fries?  And when was the last time you asked for the nutrition information at the drive-thru to make a healthy informed choice?

If you go to the official Kids LiveWell website, and look at the section for Burger King, you will find this statement:

“Burger King Corp. (BKC) is proud to be an Inaugural Leader in the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. For a number of years, BKC has been committed to promoting balanced diets to our guests as part of our BK Positive Steps® corporate social responsibility program. The menu items below highlight some of our enhanced menu offerings that can help our guests make choices that best fit their nutritional needs. For more information about BURGER KING® restaurants and the restaurants near you, please visit www.bk.com.”

Really?

I highly doubt that Burger King is “committed to promoting balanced diets.”  They are currently promoting their new Bacon Cheddar Ranch TENDERCRISP® sandwich that delivers a whopping 900 calories, 48 grams of artery-clogging fat, and a megadose of sodium at 2180mg between two buns.  That’s before you add the fries and drink.

Here is the problem:  At some point, the kids eating the healthy meal option at Burger King will graduate to the Whopper.  A Whopper Value Meal (small) is 1200 calories with 57 grams of fat!

Although I am glad to see that some restaurants will have healthier options on their menus, as I do eat out once or twice a month, I do not believe that it will result in a healthier nation.  One in three kids are overweight or obese.  The problem is real and it is not going to be solved by teaching them that the fun and healthy way to eat is by going through the fast-food drive-thru.  Real change will only come when parents commit to learning and modeling a healthier lifestyle, educating their children about food choices, and take control of their nutrition by preparing simple, healthy meals at home.

What do you think?

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