Healthy Happy Meals? Low-Calorie Kids Food Coming Soon To Burger King, Cracker Barrel, Denny's

Restaurants are joining up with a program that requires them to make a 600-calorie meal available for kids. How are they going to trick kids into ordering that, and when do we get a healthy solution for grown-ups?

Burger King Fresh apple friesWith the latest obesity statistics finding that only Colorado and Washington, D.C., have a prevalence of obesity less than 20% in the U.S, it's time for some creative solutions.  Kids LiveWell has convinced 15,000 restaurant locations across the U.S.—including chains like Burger King, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, and IHOP—to offer healthier meals for kids.

The reasoning behind the National Restaurant Association program is obvious: If chains offer healthier options, they can avoid some of the blame for the obesity crisis and win back customers who are concerned about the lack of low-calorie choices for their children.

The rules are stringent, too. In order to participate, restaurants have to offer at least one full children’s meal (that's an entree, side and beverage) that is under 600 calories; contains at least two servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, or low-fat dairy; and contains minimal sodium, fats, and sugar . At least one other individual item containing 200 calories or less (and containing at least one serving of the aforementioned items) has to be available. In other words,they have to offer normal sized meals.

At Denny's, this translates into items like the Spaghetti Plate, which contains spaghetti and marinara sauce, steamed broccoli and a piece of garlic bread. At Burger King, a sample healthy kids meal will include a hamburger, BK Fresh Apple Fries (fresh apples cut to look like french fries), and fat-free milk, among other things. And at IHOP, kids will be able to select tilapia with a side of broccoli.

What fast food-loving kid is going to choose the healthier, less fun option without a fight? Burger King probably has the right idea with the Fresh Apple Fries, which have been around for years. As we explained in a recent Fast Company article, making healthy options look like more attractive-looking "junk food" is all about good marketing—and french fry-shaped apple slices are pretty convincing. Steamed broccoli, on the other hand, isn't nearly as attractive.

It's encouraging to see popular restaurant chains that are notorious for their high-calorie options adding healthier items. This may not end the obesity epidemic, but healthy, reasonably priced dishes are a start. Now they just need to start offering healthier selections for adults.

[Image: Burger King]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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  • Krista Bradley

    Why can't we teach our kids to take pride in the foods they put in thier bodies and eat healthy in the first place! Why do parents assume that all their children will want to eat is junk food. Fruits and vegetables are colorful and flavorful and offer a variety of textures. They don't need to be masked by butter, salt, cheese, caramel sauce, etc to taste good. And YES I'm a parent, for those of you that are wondering. 

  • Gman

    I would be more encouraged if popular restaurant chains added healthier items on their own and not because of government mandate.

  • Stuart Bogue

    Through the years ,lack of formaldehyde in milk,cocaine in Coca
    cola,x-rays to size your shoes,Seatbelts and catalytic converters in
    your car,industrial waste in your river are all the result of Government
    action,which is actually the result of citizen action through election
    of public servants. In many cases Government action does what the free
    markets cannot. When everyone plays by the same rules and consistency in
    creation and enforcement exists,industry can thrive by the same
    means,providing excellent products and service while conforming to
    standards. There is absolutely nothing wrong or diminished about actions
    that result from Governmental direction. If perfection and absolute
    correctness are what you are looking for,then neither Industry of
    Government are capable of delivering.....