Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kids LiveWell important for restaurants of all sizes

About two years ago, Ype Von Hengst began to notice an uptick in orders of healthful children’s meals at his Silver Diner restaurants. Previously, one in 10 children’s orders was for healthful options; today healthful items represent four of 10 children’s meal orders.

“This is a trend that’s here to stay,” says Von Hengst, chef and founder of the 16-location company based in Rockville, Md. “Even if you have one little diner, one little deli, one little restaurant, you have to give mom and dad options to give their kids healthy food.”

Silver Diner is among the smaller restaurant companies participating in Kids LiveWell, the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) new initiative to promote healthful children’s options.

Kids LiveWell showcases restaurants that offer children’s menu items that meet nutrition criteria. Participating companies appear on the NRA’s website at, and consumers can search the companies and their offerings at

The NRA launched the initiative last July with Healthy Dining, a California-based nutrition-analysis company. At the launch, more than 15,000 restaurant locations were represented; since then, several thousand more outlets are in the pipeline to join the initiative.

Kids LiveWell recognizes the importance of giving parents and children more healthful options and information so they can make choices that are right for their families.

Silver Diner’s Von Hengst says the Kids LiveWell initiative appealed to him because he feels a moral obligation to offer healthful options for children and adults, which is why his restaurants have been offering nutritious food for 21 years.

To qualify for Kids LiveWell, restaurants must offer full children’s meals that include an entrée, side and beverage for no more than 600 calories. Meals must consist of nutrient-rich food, including two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy. They also must limit sodium, fat and sugar.

Participating restaurants must offer at least one other side dish that follows similar criteria. They also must provide nutrition information about the meal and promote the items so they are easily identifiable.

The nutrition criteria for Kids LiveWell meals is based on scientific recommendations from the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Institute of Medicine, government guidance for school nutrition and other leading health organizations.

Learn more about Kids LiveWell and how restaurants can get involved at

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