As we mentioned last week, kids’ menus at restaurants of all kinds are on the rise. Kids’ menus are stepping away from more traditional ingredients, offering more healthy options, and  are are thinking beyond smaller portions to bigger more flavorful concepts. 

Not only are more healthful options a good idea for kids, it's a good idea for your bottom line. Parents who know they can find healthy options for their kids that they'll actually eat could become some of your most loyal diners. When mom or dad don't feel like cooking you'll be at the top of their list for a family-friendly dining out option. 

The National Restaurant Association cares enough about the health of children’s food that it's created the Kids LiveWell healthy dining program to promote healthier food options for kids at restaurants. Over 42,000 restaurant locations participate by including approved ingredients on their kids' menu. Today, we’re going to take a look at these healthy alternatives that any restaurant can include in their menu planning, even if they aren’t participating in the Kids LiveWell program.

Not only are more healthful options a good idea for kids, it's a good idea for your bottom line.

Healthy menu items

Lean protein: Offering leaner meat options like poultry and fish is a good way of providing healthier protein than red, fatty meats. The Uber Sausage in Denver, Colorado, has a variety of lean protein options in sausage form. The Baja, for instance, involves a saltine-encrusted fish fillet with fresh vegetables and chipotle sauce.

Vegetables: Think beyond steamed carrots and broccoli to fun salads and jazzed up seasonal produce. Serve fries with your kids meals? Try swapping those out for veggie chips, or sweet potato wedges that are baked instead. Include a fun dipping sauce and chances are kids will hardly notice the difference.

Whole grains: Foods that include whole grains are rich in naturally-occurring nutrients. You can also find a ton of great alternative grain options that will be attractive to kids. Black and wild rice varietals, red lentils, couscous, think of fun shapes and colors that might not be standard “at-home” fare. 

Fruits: Fruits are sometimes an easier sell for a tough kid crowd, so some restaurants are including them throughout their menus. Add them to entrees and in other unexpected ways to surprise and delight pint-sized diners. Check out Salad Extravaganza in Houston, Texas for some out of the box fruit ideas for your menu. Smoothies are another great option. They can get meal started faster for the kids and keep them occupied if you serve it in a fun, and spill-proof lidded cup with straw.

Menu Items to avoid

These three ingredients were labeled in the Kids LiveWell program as items to avoid:

  • Unhealthy fats
  • Refined sugars
  • Excess salt

Are you offering healthy options for the whole family? Share some of your unique examples with us.

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Insights from and on the restaurant industry. Curated by the content team at Upserve.