The National Restaurant Association is accepting submissions for its first Kids Recipe Challenge, which is intended to showcase restaurants with creative healthy children’s menus.
To enter, restaurant operators and chefs can submit one or two of their favorite kids’ recipes, along with nutritional analysis of the recipe, to the NRA by Jan. 7, 2013. Submissions must be a full meal, with a side dish if applicable, and a drink.
Winners will receive $1,500 and an all-expenses paid trip to the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show, to be held May 18-21, 2013. All restaurant or foodservice operators are eligible to apply for the prize, but all recipes must be original, the NRA said on its website.
The contest was created by the NRA with McCormick for Chefs. The reason for the contest is simple: To encourage restaurants and chefs that make children’s nutrition a priority, said Joy Dubost, director of nutrition at the NRA. “We know that children’s nutrition is a growing and sustaining trend,” she said. “First off, we have an obesity crisis in America. One-third of children are either overweight or obese.”
And, she said, the restaurant industry as a whole wants to be a part of the solution to the country’s obesity problem. “We in the industry wanted to show that we are addressing this and are diversifying our menus,” Dubost said.
All recipes entered must meet the Kids LiveWell nutrition criteria, which include having less than 770 milligrams of sodium, containing 600 calories or fewer, and having fewer than 35 percent of total calories from fat.
According to the NRA website, the winners will ultimately be chosen by child taste testers after the original pool of entries is narrowed down by adult food and restaurant professionals.
Submission guidelines can be found on the NRA website, and winners will be announced in May at the NRA Show. Nation's Restaurant News serves as a promotional partner for the contest, and Randall Friedman, group publisher at NRN parent company Penton Media, serves on the advisory board.
Marketing to kids
Creating healthy menu items for kids has different challenges than creating healthy options for adults, Dubost said.
“They’re making it not just an appealing, tasty dish from a sensory aspect. They’re using a much broader approach,” she said of restaurants with successful kids' offerings. “On the menu they’re not just saying ‘ , broccoli and milk,’ they’re also trying to appeal to the child by creating fun names.”
For example, Dubost said that names like “X-Ray Vision Carrots” appeal to kids, and make them seem approachable and friendly.
How the menu is presented makes a big difference, too, she said. Some restaurants, for instance, offer nutrition-focused crosswords and other activities for kids. “They’re really making nutrition cool,” she said.
Dubost also points out that although all people have similar needs when it comes to nutrition, kids simply need less food — and thus fewer calories.
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