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Healthy Kids Options When Dining Out

We don’t dine out often, but when we do, I am always looking for healthy menu choices for my girls.  I was happy to hear about a program called Kids LiveWell.  I was actually supposed to attend a Kids LiveWell event this past Monday, but my daughter was having her Upper Endoscopy that day, and I was unable to attend.  I was really bummed out, because this sounds like such great program, and I was looking forward to learning more about it.

So many families avoid dining out, because the menu options are not healthy options.  Well, restaurants have heard our plea’s for healthier menu options for kids, and healthy menu options are increasingly becoming the focus of the National Restaurant Association (NRA).  In July 2011, the NRA created the Kids LiveWell program to help restaurants highlight healthy menu choices.  The NRA launched the award-winning Kids LiveWell program to make a healthful choice the easy choice when eating out with your family. It takes the guesswork out of identifying healthy meals for your children to eat.  The NRA developed this program in collaboration with Healthy Dining, who is a team of registered dietitians.  They work with restaurants to identify and validate the qualifying menu choices.

We typically tend to always go to the same restaurants because we know they have safe and healthy options for Bean.  One of her favorites is a local buffet restaurant, that offers a LOT of fruit & vegetable choices.  We know fruits & vegies are peanut free, and are a healthy choice, plus she loves them.  All restaurants who participate in the Kids LiveWell program have to agree to offer & promote a selection of healthy menu items.  I looked online, and was surprised to find several restaurants in our area that participate in the Kids LiveWell program and offer healthy menu choices.  You can find ones near you by clicking here.  There is also a Kids LiveWell app for Android and Iphones.  To learn more about the program, you can visit their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

This sounds like a great trend, and I hope more restaurants decide to participate.  The eating habits we learn as children tend to follow us through the rest of our lives.  Starting our children off right, and incorporating lots of fresh fruits & vegetables, will teach them how they should eat as adults and teens.  With so many children being overweight and obese, making the healthy option the “good” option to them, and pushing it in restaurants is a great idea!  Kids love going out to eat, and this allows them to still go out, and eat healthy!

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the National Restaurant Association. If I would have attended the live event, I would have received a gift bag and promotional items to thank me for taking the time to participate.  However, since I did not participate, I did not receive any promotional items or gift bag.  :0(


Conflicting information…

My grandmother was celebrating her 84th birthday this past Saturday at an Italian restaurant.  This restaurant has a few different locations, and the last time we had gone to one of their locations, we asked the server about any foods being unsafe for a peanut allergy. She sent the chef out to our table.  When the chef came out, he explained that the Alfredo sauce was unsafe for our daughter, and that he would make her food with marinara separately so there was no cross-contamination.  So, just to be safe, earlier on the day of the party, I called the restaurant to make sure that everything served was going to be safe for my daughter to eat.  She checked and said it was all safe for her.

However, when we got to the restaurant, they put out a menu of the courses.  One of the first course items was a walnut salad.  I questioned the server about it being safe, and he said that nothing on the menu contains peanuts.  I explained that usually other nuts have a “made on the same equipment” warning labels.  He said he would ask the chef.  A manager came to our table and again said that everything was safe.  However, a few minutes later, the server came in with a salad made without walnuts specifically for my daughter.  We really appreciated that.

One of the main course items was Fettuccine Alfredo.  My husband and I both both recalled the other location specifically saying the Alfredo sauce was not safe, so we did not allow her to eat that either.  We assume that both locations would use the same ingredients.

Our final course was dessert, and one of the two desserts they served was Tiramisu.  For those that don’t know, Tiramisu is ladyfinger cookies soaked in espresso and coffee liqueur layered with Mascarpone, dusted with cocoa powder and served with chocolate shavings.  The Tiramisu raised all kinds of red flags for me!  Are the cookies safe?  What about the chocolate shavings? These are things that I consider high risk for her, since so many of them “may contain peanuts” or are “made on the same equipment”.   We didn’t let her have any of that either.

She did get to eat all the other items that they served, so it was not like she didn’t get to eat.  She just could not eat everything they served.  Although I didn’t want her to feel left out because she could not eat everything, I would rather have her be safe than sorry.  Is it wrong that even though 3 people told me that the items were safe, I still would not let her have them?

I sometimes find it very difficult to explain to people that just because it does not “contain” actual peanuts (in it or on it), does not mean that other ingredients used in making the food are all safe and peanut free.

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