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The National Restaurant Association added Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar and Chick-fil-A to its Kids LiveWell program on Monday.
Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and chief executive, said those two major chains, in addition to Kraft Foodservice, bring the number of restaurant brands in the Kids LiveWell program to 96, representing more than 25,000 locations. The NRA also revealed a new Kids LiveWell smartphone application.
“We now have restaurants in every single state of the United States that have signed up to participate in Kids LiveWell,” Sweeney said during a press conference at the NRA Show in Chicago.
Former President Bill Clinton in a keynote speech Sunday highlighted the industry’s children’s menu initiatives.
“To have President Clinton speak out in such strong terms of support, not only for the industry and the work we’re doing but for this program in particular by name — that was an exciting moment for us.” Sweeney said.
Kids LiveWell started last July and provides healthful restaurant meal options for children.
“To be part of the Kids LiveWell program, restaurants must offer at least one child’s meal — and entrée, a side and beverage — that is 600 calories or less. It has to contain two or more servings of fruit, vegetables, grains, lean proteins and/or low-fat dairy,” Sweeney said. “That means the meal by definition also limits unhealthy levels of fats, sodium and sugar.”
The NRA is also releasing a smartphone app on the Android and iPhone operating systems as a tool to find restaurants and menu items on the go, Sweeney said. The app is geo-coded so users will be able to find restaurants nearest to them with Kids LiveWell menu items. The free app is available in the Android Market and iTunes app store.
Jodie Worrell, senior nutrition consultant for Chick-fil-A, has two young sons and said she knows "how important it is when you are dining out to have healthier options." She added, "And especially with this new app for the Kids LiveWell program, it’s much easier to find options and to see the nutrition criteria for those.”
Worrell said Chick-fil-A introduced in January grillednuggets for the kids meals and applesauce.
Anita Jones-Mueller, founder and president of HealthyDiningFinder.com, added that, “good nutrition is a powerful force in our lives and eating well helps us be our best every day.” Jones-Mueller added that good nutrition helps children “to function at their best, to learn, to grow, to thrive.”
The NRA developed Kids LiveWell in collaboration with Healthy Dining, whose team of registered dietitians works with restaurants to identify and validate the qualifying menu choices. Participating restaurants and their qualifying items can be found on HealthyDiningFinder.com.
Jessica James, Applebee's corporate executive Weight Watchers-endorsed entrees.”, said in a prepared statement: "Applebee's participation in Kids LiveWell complements our lineup of healthful menu options, including our Under 550 Calories menu and
Ype von Hengst, co-founder and executive vice president of culinary operations at Rockville, Md.-based Silver Diner, added at the press conference, “if you don’t offer healthy options, children can’t choose them. It’s our moral obligation to give these kids great food.”
RELATED: Ype von Hengst talks child nutrition
In addition to Applebee's and Chick-fil-A, Mimi’s Café, First Watch and Which Wich are among restaurants that have joined Kids LiveWell in the past two months.