July 28th marks the Fourth Anniversary of the National Restaurant Association’s initiative of the Kids LiveWell Program, dedicated to providing healthy, nutritious meals at restaurants across the country.  Participation in this program ensures that the restaurants involved provide healthy meal items for children, aimed at increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy, while limiting fats, sugars and sodium.  This helps parents make healthy choices for their children.  Gone are the days of choosing only between grilled cheese, (sub-par) chicken nuggets and hot dogs!


Just this weekend I was able to see firsthand what a meal like this might look like. After more than two weeks babysitting my two young grandsons, age 3 and nearly 1, while their parents took a much overdue vacation, I realized how difficult it must be for today’s working parents to creatively shop for and prepare healthy meals on a budget for their families.  I also realized how tempting it is to go out for a meal just because it might be faster, easier.


Upon their much anticipated return (I may have shed my own joyful tears), my son and his wife suggested we all dine together at Mill Valley Kitchen, a nearby restaurant in Minneapolis.  Their 3-year old son, Coleman, chose from the children’s menu the entree option of chicken and rice for his dinner (this seems to be his preference, in a multitude of forms, when dining out). 


Served in a contemporary cafeteria style tray, with separate compartments (keeping food from “touching”), Coleman enjoyed grilled chicken breast, rice, a fruit salad including melon and grapes, and steamed edamame.  This meal was 430 calories, with 15 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbohydrate, and 35 grams of protein.  For me, a culinary professional, I was thrilled to see healthy options that weren’t focused on high calorie carbs, suggesting that these seasonal and healthy options might help kids develop better eating habits as they grow older.

There are over 42,000 restaurants representing more than 155 brands, from independent restaurants, full service and national chain restaurants to quick service restaurants and museums, all participating in the Kids LiveWell Program.  By downloading the app, you can easily locate participating restaurants in your area!  Visit the Kids LiveWell website for more information.


 And celebrate not only the anniversary of this program, but take advantage of the options now available for the young children in your life, and share the news!