Healthier Kids Fare featured at NRA Show

Restaurateurs found ingredients, advice and recipes to enhance the nutrient content of kids’ meals at the NRA Show. Nearly 50 companies offered products identified as Healthier Kids Fare, and others offered nutrition analysis services. Several education sessions offered tips to create tasty, healthful menu items. And the recipients of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge offered samples and recipes of their winning creations.

Here’s a look at some of the products and services related to kids’ nutrition:

Chef Robert Irvine recognized the NRA Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge winners in a brief ceremony at the NRA Booth. The “Restaurant Impossible” host praised the NRA for encouraging restaurants to offer healthful kids’ items. “It is our responsibility … to take care of our children,” he said, noting, “The NRA is doing such a great job of this” through Kids LiveWell. In the ceremony, Stacy Knight of McCormick for Chefs said: “We applaud all you are doing in the industry to show families, consumers and picky eaters known as kids that they can eat healthy.” McCormick for Chefs is a founding sponsor of the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge. In an education session on nutrition trends, food strategist Janet Helm praised the creativity of the winning items. “Talk about seductive nutrition,” she said.

Healthier Kids Fare exhibitor California Lavash shared creative ideas for using its vegan flatbreads, such as lasagna layers, quiche “crusts” and decorative flowers. When her family started the company 20 years ago, few operators knew what lavash was, says Lilea Eshoo. Now, they’re looking for new applications, she says.

Three years ago, Phil Lapp’s children stopped eating meat. He and his wife were disappointed with the “long list of chemicals” in many vegetarian proteins, so they began making their own soy-free meat alternative. The first night, their daughter proclaimed, “This isn’t meat; it’s neat.” A year later, they launched Neat, which offers shelf-stable, gluten- and soy-free mixes that can be used to make burgers, chili, tacos, meatballs and other dishes. The mixes can be combined with water and egg or chia. “Once this passed the kid test, we knew we were on to something.”

In one education session, restaurant leaders discussed what their companies were doing to improve the nutrient content of kids’ meals. For example, McDonald’s made fruit the default side in Happy Meals. It cut the portion size of kids’ fries to 100 calories. Now it’s working with Yoplait to offer a version of Go-Gurt with 25 percent fewer calories, says Steve Hilton, vice president, global government and public affairs. “When we wanted to put milk in happy meals, we realized we need to make it fun.” When it changed the milk containers to mini jugs, sales of low-fat milk and chocolate milk accelerated. In addition to offering green beans, applesauce and non-carbonated drinks in children’s meals, Yum Brands stopped advertising in TV shows geared to children under 12. “We know they begin their habits at a very early age,” says Jonathan Blum., senior vice president, public affairs and global nutrition.

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