18 Oct Kids Rule! Healthful Kids’ Meals Remain Among Top 10 Food Trends
As kids head back to school, sports and other extracurricular activities this fall, it is important families carve out time to spend together amid their hectic schedules. What better way than over a meal? This month, we explore healthful kids’ meals: a trend that has graced the National Restaurant Association’s ‘What’s Hot’ list three years in a row, with more and more eateries starting to take notice.
According to 2016 research by Food Fanatics, keeping parents and kids happy could mean big profits for restaurants—more than $80 billion, in fact. Children choose the restaurant 23% of the time that families eat out, and it seems that variety may be an important factor in their dining decisions. 78% of parents surveyed stated their kids enjoy trying new foods. With most responsible parents also wanting to offer healthy fare to their kids, it is in the eateries’ best interests to offer both nutritional and interesting menu options to young families.
What’s Happening in Kids’ Dining
As a recent article by VSAG mentioned, restaurants began removing empty-calorie sides or unhealthy drink items in kids’ meals years ago. The major players in kids’ dining and fast food industries are promoting healthy options such as apple slices instead of fries or milk instead of soda. Cauliflower is replacing pizza dough and chefs are sneaking extra servings of veggies into many dishes.
NRA Sets the Bar for Kids Meals
In 2011, the National Restaurant Association created the ‘Kids LiveWell’ program to help promote the restaurants that offer healthy kids’ meal options. In order to receive recognition by the program, restaurants must submit recipes that follow strict guidelines regarding nutrition, including calories, fat, sugar and sodium content. There is a large focus on including whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Kids Live Well has expanded greatly since its inception and now includes over 42,000 restaurant locations across the country.
A Healthy Serving
Restaurants are taking notice of this trend and setting the scene to keep the entire family happy. South Florida-based Sushi Maki, which joined Kids LiveWell in 2012, features chicken or salmon teriyaki served with brown rice, sushi tacos, and the ‘Cool Kids Cali Roll’. Fast-casual restaurant franchise Moe’s Southwest Grill offers unique kid options such as ‘Moo Moo Mr. Cow’ Burrito and ‘Power Wagon’ Taco with fish. Restaurants can also encourage family dining by hosting “Kids Eat Free” deals for busy families, like Moe’s Southwest Grill does, on select weeknights.
Scouting Out Kid-Friendly Eateries
Smartphones are a helpful tool for busy parents looking for restaurants that serve healthy kids’ meals. OuttoEatWithKids.com gives parents the ability to look up local eateries that offer healthy fare. Restaurants may apply to be added to the website’s list, which receives over 100,000 unique monthly visitors. Other sites such as HealthyDiningFinder.com, as well as the Kids LiveWell mobile app, give families a chance to dine out together while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Whether or not a restaurant chooses to promote its kids’ meal offerings by participating in structured programs like ‘Kids LiveWell’, all chefs can tap into the large segment of family diners by offering healthful and unique options for youngsters. Looking for more inspiration on how to engage with family diners through interesting kids’ meals? Check out our recipes page!