Interview with Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living, NRA #KidsLiveWell

The National Restaurant Association recently held their annual convention  in Chicago where they got to highlight their Kids LiveWell program and #KidsLiveWell recipe challenge. This challenge let several food vendors and restaurants create healthy and delicious kids recipes to see who would be able to come up with the most popular delicious and nutritious recipe.  The purpose of this event was to promote the Kids LiveWell program and to recognize the people in the food industry that are already doing it right and making difference.There are already nearly 42,000 participating restaurant locations nationwide and the National Restaurant Association is looking for more.

Since the convention I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Joy Dubost, who discussed with me more about this program and why it is important. She also gave me tips how we can   help our children eat healthier.

Interview with Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living, National Restaurant Association

 Joy Dubost

 

Why should the restaurant industry take a hard look at providing healthier options for children and families?

Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in what is on their plates, where it comes from and how it’s prepared. In particular, health and nutrition continue to be top of mind. According to National Restaurant Association research, more than seven out of 10 consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers healthful options. The restaurant industry is committed to providing these options to their patrons. In fact, more than eight of 10 adults agree that restaurants offer more healthful choices now compared to two years ago.

One way restaurants are showing their passion and commitment to children’s nutrition is through the Kids LiveWell program. The National Restaurant Association launched this initiative in 2011 to help make the healthful choice the easy choice when dining out with children. The voluntary program has grown from 19 restaurant brands representing 15,000 locations to over 145 restaurant brands, representing 42,000 locations nationwide. The program has also expanded beyond restaurants to museums, theme parks and resorts.

Can you share some examples of restaurants that are doing it right?

Restaurants across the country are taking the steps to provide healthful menu options. To see specific examples, HealthyDiningFinder.com lists the restaurants that are part of the Kids LiveWell program. Restaurants in the Kids LiveWell program have committed to providing meals that meet specific nutritional criteria based off the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. The meals focus on increasing the consumption of low-fat dairy, fruit and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, while limiting unhealthful fats, sugars and sodium.

The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with McCormick for Chefs, created the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge to shine a spotlight on the positive efforts of the restaurant and foodservice industry in kids’ nutrition. The Challenge takes an “industry tested, kid approved” approach with a panel of food and nutrition professionals selecting finalists and elementary school students choosing the winners.

Restaurants and foodservice companies that applied are examples of those using their culinary ingenuity in not only creating a healthful meal, but a meal that is creative and memorable for kids. This year’s winners are a prime example of this: Sysco Hampton Roads, O’Charley’s, UW Health and Bean Sprouts Café.

If you were going to grade the food industry in general for healthy options, what grade would it receive.

The industry is taking all the right steps in creating healthful options for consumers; however, it’s important to keep in mind that there is always room for improvement. It’s encouraging to see that children’s nutrition is a top priority for chefs and that they continue to put their creativity in healthful kids meals to work on restaurant menus. In fact, healthful kids’ meals have ranked as a top 10 menu trend on the Association’s What’s Hot Chef Survey – a survey of nearly 1,300 professional chefs – for the past five years, indicating that children’s nutrition is a true trend for the restaurant and foodservice industry, not a passing fad.

The restaurant industry is committed to health and nutrition in a myriad of ways – from looking for ways to reduce sodium in meals to providing options for consumers with celiac disease and food allergies to working to make nutrition information available on websites and menus.

Please share some examples how families and moms can provide healthier meals to our children.

We know that when parents dine out, they are increasingly looking for healthful options for their children. Many restaurants already have them and with the Kids LiveWell program, our goal is to make the healthful choice, the easy choice. We want to make locating a Kids LiveWell restaurant and identifying their qualifying meals as simple as possible.

I encourage parents and caretakers to look at HealthyDiningFinder.com. The site has a dedicated Kids LiveWell section that not only lists every participating restaurant, but also each member’s qualifying Kids LiveWell meals (which must include an entrée, side and beverage), as well as each meals’ nutritional information.

We also have a free Kids LiveWell app for both iPhone and Android that helps to find participating restaurants while on-the-go, and when dining out, keep your eyes out for the Kids LiveWell logo and apple on restaurant menus.

Making healthy meals is one thing, but getting our kids to eat them is another, how can we balance the two?

Keep in mind that kids typically outgrow many picky eating habits after the age of 6, as growth spurts are often accompanied by changes in appetite and food consumption. But while they are going through this stage, I have several tips that could help:

  • Make sure fruits are ripe, sweet and juicy to tempt kids’ taste buds.
  • For picky kids – introduce foods over and over – kids’ taste buds change over time.
  • Offer picky eaters sweeter veggies like carrots, acorn squash and sweet potatoes.
  • Give fruits and vegetables fun names to make them more appealing.

We even put together a video for my Ask the Nutritionist series featuring myself and Bill Wurtzel, the creator of Funny Food. The video has fun tips on making meals that are nutritious and fun for children to eat: http://youtu.be/r7aLj9Xuxxo.
How serious is the child obesity problem, and what are ways we can fight it?

In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. However Philadelphia, New York City, Mississippi and California are among the locations reporting declining childhood obesity rates as a result of taking comprehensive action to address the epidemic. A recent survey found that the obesity rate for children 2-5 years old has dropped 43 percent in a decade.

Through efforts and initiatives such as the Kids LiveWell program, the restaurant industry has been taking a proactive role in addressing childhood obesity. The Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge was also created to not only shine a spotlight on the current positive efforts of the industry, but also to encourage more restaurants to diversify their children’s items by offering healthful, innovative meals.

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39 comments
katgilbert81
katgilbert81

This is a great and very informative interview. I learned a lot from reading your post.

thatbaldchick
thatbaldchick

I really appreciate that restaurants are making it easier to make healthy choices for our kids while dining out.  Great interview.

CameshaGosha1
CameshaGosha1

I love the list of restaurants that are getting it right. Very handy. I am super focused on what we eat and where we eat as a family. Thanks for this post. Lots of good info here. 

Earthformed
Earthformed

Dr. Dubost looks like the picture of health. Thank you for sharing healthydiningfinder.com. My kids aren't picky but sometimes the kids menus are a sugar laden, carb filled joke almost completely devoid of nutritional value.

Joanna Sormunen
Joanna Sormunen

Great interview and a very informative one! I did not know about this organization before, and it was very good to find out about them!

AngelaSellari
AngelaSellari

This is a great interview. I have long been a fan of the work this organization does. I actually didn't know about the app and will definitely check that out.

We_HaveItAll
We_HaveItAll

Great interview and glad to see a lot of restaurants offering healthier foods. I agree about offering foods to kids over and over because of their tastes changing, my kids change all the time.

AshleyStewartMorton
AshleyStewartMorton

I think that a commitment to eating correctly is a family initiative that affects all areas of life. It's easy to say you want to be health concious and another matter to do it. 

TheHarriedMom
TheHarriedMom

Great interview with good kid food tips. We call ketchup Dinosaur Sauce and broccoli - eating the trees - which makes it more fun for the kids to eat.

EricaButeau
EricaButeau

The Kids LiveWell program is really awesome! What a great interview! 

mail4rosey
mail4rosey

I love to come across a children's menu that offers healthy options. When I find a place that has grapes as an option for the grilled chicken side dish, I'm the mom over there cheering out loud. :)  

DoubleDutyMommy
DoubleDutyMommy

What a great and informative interview. Great questions.I love all the changes that are being made too

ChrysaKiekeDuran
ChrysaKiekeDuran

WOW! What an informative post. I didn't realize that the  Kids LiveWell program is really this large. I'm thrilled for it and will get that app. Thanks so much.

traceynicole
traceynicole

That app sounds really helpful. This was a great interview with lots of great info!

amomsimpression
amomsimpression

I love finding more and more healthy options at my favorite restaurants.  I am glad there is a trend in moving towards that! 

ChristieC
ChristieC

This a very in-depth interview! I love the changes we're making in restaurants towards healthy families!

Jenn The Rebel Chick
Jenn The Rebel Chick

Great interview! That is a very helpful app for parents, especially when traveling.

brettbmartin
brettbmartin

Great interview. I strongly agree with these points. I'd love healthier options. 

thepuzzledpalate
thepuzzledpalate

Great interview! I am always disappointed by the selection on the kiddo menus! Glad to here that we are taking steps in the right direction!

lipglosscrayons
lipglosscrayons

Whoa, that app sounds awesome! I'm downloading it as soon as my 6 month old is big enough to eat real meals :-)

KrystalS1
KrystalS1

My son is a big fan of fruit lately. I'm so grateful for that! 

jaimemckee
jaimemckee

I love healthy options, especially for my son. Surprisingly, he prefers apple slices over fries (so I've started NOT getting fries for him, and just getting the fruit!)

Kecia08
Kecia08

I like that restaurants are getting healthier. Child obesity is a real problem, so having healthy options when eating out is important.

CookiesClogs
CookiesClogs

Never heard of HealthyDiningFinder.com but I'll have to check it out. We have a Bean Sprout in our area but haven't visited - nice to know there are healthy options that are nearby.

LizMays
LizMays

I didn't realize they had an app. That's a good thing to be able to research options before even choosing a restaurant.

frugalfroggie
frugalfroggie

I think restaurants could serve smaller portions.  But of course at a lower price and I don't think they want to do that.  I still think they can sell delicious food but it should be proportioned correctly.  There is no reason for a plate to have 1200 calories of food on it.  They can cut the size in half and take a third off the price. 

DebbieDenny
DebbieDenny

Very good info. Great job on the interview.

ToodiesMomma
ToodiesMomma

My daughter loves vegetables. She is totally polar opposite of me because I cannot stand them! I am so thankful she makes healthy choices for herself even at a young age.

shellthings
shellthings

My picky eater loves sweet potatoes. My least picky eater gobbles up salad with no dressing. It's finding a balance! 

SeriousKrystyn
SeriousKrystyn

I tell my kids all the time to try foods because tastes change! i'm glad to see restaurants are realizing people want healthy options!

massholemommy
massholemommy

I love that many restaurants are starting to offer healthier options now.  For kids AND adults.

MitchGaynycdad
MitchGaynycdad

Even baby steps help. I took french fires out of my son;s McDonald's meals over a year ago. He can just eat more protein. We just all have to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies!


SweetTMakes3
SweetTMakes3

Thanks for the Healthy Dining Finder link. I'm going to check that out.

DallasSocials
DallasSocials

Great interview. I like the restaurants are starting to get healthier options but I feel like a lot are still struggling in that department. 

kay adeola
kay adeola

Great post.We do not eat out that often.My kids are far from picky they will just about eat anything that is put in front of them and love fruit and veg.

MissLouMae
MissLouMae

What a great interview!  I am starting to notice that restaurants are starting to have healthier options.  My daughters are still picky eaters and they're ages 8 and 7.  I'm trying to get them to eat their veggies as much as possible.

sassymom2bratz
sassymom2bratz

She is a very smart lady! My kids have been raised on fruits and veggies! Its so cool cause I can ask my oldest (3 yrs old) if she wants tomatoes or ice cream and she picks the tomatoes! My 2 yr old is in the same path!

MushyMamma
MushyMamma moderator

@shellthings this is so true, my son will eat all green veggies but barely any  other veggies,  I am hoping as he gets older he will begin to add a few others.  But for now  I am happy that he will eat what he does