Kids LiveWell: Preventing Childhood Obesity One Nutritious Meal at a Time

March 2022

Kids LiveWell: Preventing Childhood Obesity One Nutritious Meal at a Time

Every parent values healthy choices for their children, whether grabbing takeout or dining in. However, providing healthy, delicious and nutritious meals to children at restaurants has always been seen as a challenge. Making sure that parents feel confident in feeding their children better-for-you options while keeping labor costs to a minimum is a cause of concern for many operators. Adults with children can be incredibly profitable for a restaurant owner, with 88% spending more than non-parent consumers. This means that the more enticing you are to families, the larger the check averages can be.


In 2011, the National Restaurant Association founded the Kids LiveWellSM program, striving to prevent childhood obesity by promoting meals full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. To qualify for the program, operators had to meet the added sugar, sodium, fat, and calorie thresholds according to the latest nutrition science. This program allowed operators to control the nutrient and calorie levels that children were consuming on a day-to-day basis.


In 2021, the Association collaborated with nutrition consultant Food Directions LLC to relaunch the program, reflecting the latest findings in nutritional science. According to Maggie Gentile, the vice president of food and nutrition policy at Food Directions, “Nutrition science has changed in the last ten years, so we worked with the Association and restaurant representatives to identify the needed and impactful changes that should be made to bring the program up-to-date.”


Several updates were made to the program to reflect these ongoing changes.

  • Expanding the number of certified menu items: The program now requires that two meals and two sides are certified to meet the Kids LiveWell criteria.
  • Adding a default beverage policy: A default beverage policy for the kid's menu can only include water, low-fat or non-fat milk, or 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
  • Eliminating artificial trans fats: Following the FDA ban on artificial trans fats, industrially produced trans fat is no longer allowed in Kids LiveWell meals.
  • Removing fat calorie allowance: Along with removing trans fat subsidies, the updated program no longer assesses total fat calories but limits calories from saturated fat.
  • Change to added sugar criterion: The new program no longer focuses on calories from total sugar and instead shifts to limits on added sugars.
  • Reduced sodium threshold: The new criteria lowers the sodium threshold for both meals and sides to reduce sodium by 10% in response to public health recommendations.
  • Changing the type of dairy products allowed: The new default beverage menu includes 1% and non-fat milk varieties only, following public health recommendations.


But as a restaurant operator, why should you participate? For one, parents are desirable customers, and restaurants can benefit from patronage from an entire family instead of just single consumers. According to Technomic, 44% of parents find it challenging to keep meals healthy when dining out. Many find that having healthier selections will be a factor in choosing a dinner out for the whole family. In addition, 51% of millennial parents strongly agree that healthier kids’ selections would drive them to restaurants more often.


With over 13,000 restaurants in the United States having KidsLiveWell approved menu items, you’d be staying competitive in the push towards healthier, more nutritious food.


At Butterball, we know that menuing healthy lean proteins is essential to building a more nutritionally conscious menu. According to The Importance of Turkey in Food Away from Home study, 68% of parents agree that turkey provides the health benefits they seek in a protein. Taking this into account, turkey can be a viable staple for a healthier menu for parents and children alike. For more information on the Kids Live Well program and how you can enroll, visit the National Restaurant Association website.


What’s your favorite healthy turkey recipe? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook or LinkedIn page. Or visit our Resource Center for more tips and trends.




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