Nineteen restaurant chains, including Burger King and IHOP, have agreed to participate in a restaurant industry effort to promote healthier meals for children, Reuters reports.
Conceived of by the National Restaurant Association, the voluntary program will focus on boosting the nutritional value of kids' meals by increasing the amounts of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy while limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium. Nearly one in three U.S. children are obese or overweight.
Other chains participating in the "Kids LiveWell" initiative include Au Bon Pain, Brinker International's, Chili's Grill & Bar, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Outback Steakhouse and Sizzler. Collectively, the 19 chains operate some 15,000 restaurants. McDonald's and Subway have declined to join the program.
The restaurants have agreed to offer a children's meal -- including an entree, a side and a drink -- with 600 calories or less that meets the above criteria. They also will offer at least one other individual item with 200 calories or fewer.
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Burger King this month will make sliced apples and fat-free milk or juice the default choices for its kids' meals as part of the effort. French fries and soda will remain choices, but customers will have to request them. IHOP and some other chains have already lowered calorie counts on some children's menu items.
Parents can find "Kids LiveWell" options in their communities by visiting the "Kids LiveWell" section on www.HealthyDiningFinder.com.
"This is a great start to help empower consumers -- kids and parents especially -- with healthier choices at restaurants," Robert Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said in a statement, while Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), called it a "good baby-step forward, but they have a lot more work to do."
What a way to make fat kids cry.