Restaurants aim to bring kids more healthy menu choices


by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

Posted on July 13, 2011 at 11:23 PM

HOUSTON -- The Kids Live Well program is being pushed by the National Restaurant Association as a way to help produce healthier kids’ menus.

"The idea really is to make sure that the public knows that parents know and consumers know there are healthful options on menus across the country for kids," said Dawn Sweeney, the President of the National Restaurant Association.

The new or existing options are now available in more than 15,000 restaurants all over the country, including some of the biggest names Chili's, IHOP, Denny's, Outback and even Burger King.

The featured items are all less than 600 calories and include an entrée, a side and 2 percent milk.

"The point is, there are choices and families can make choices when there are an array of options on a menu," Sweeney said.

As a mother of two Crystal Wardell said she knows a little about that.

"They are definitely looking at us to see what we eat, and I think a lot of what we eat at home transpires into what we are eating in a restaurant," she said.

That is where it can be tough said Evan Wardell.

“Usually it is pretty difficult. Things are usually fried, or soaked in butter or have a special sauce," he said.

Chili's is one of the restaurants in the program and it has lots of choices on the kids’ menu. Two of them now are Kids Live Well options.

What would kids pick?

My daughter Avery Desel, who turns 5 next week, leads our pint sized taste testers in the selections.

“Corn dog, broccoli, celery," she said.

Kalin Wardell is next and she too sticks to the corn dog, broccoli and milk combo.

The two youngest, both 2 years old pick the healthy-choice grilled chicken and broccoli.

 "Definitely a proud mommy moment for me," said Crystal Wardell. "I think that also at this age when you have the more colorful items on the menu that makes a difference for them. The bright green broccoli and the yellow pineapple."

Want a surprise? Just as a test we offered the kids French fries.

"Are you sure you don't want some of these?” I asked.

 “I didn't order those," Avery said.

Ultimately it is what parents choose to put in front of kids, and options help.

Two-year-old Cadence passed with an A from start to finish.

"When she got the food she still ate it," said her dad.

They ate the corn dogs too.