The National Restaurant Association (NRA) launched its Kids Live Well program 18 months ago in a reported attempt to hold restaurants to higher nutritional standards for their children’s menu options.
Criteria includes a limit on number of calories, saturated fats and sodium, and gives points to restaurants offering fruit, vegetable and whole grain options. While on its face this initiative seems like a step in the right direction, kids’ meals from most establishments still introduce children to processed ingredients, and more importantly, to the fast-food mentality that plagues our Nation.
According to an analysis of restaurants and their compliance with the Kids Live Well program conducted by the University of North Carolina and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Americans spend 48 percent of their food dollars on restaurant foods. As a result, 25 percent of children’s daily calories now come from restaurants, most commonly fast-food restaurants.
The report also found that a shocking 91 percent of the 41 restaurant chains with kids’ menu options did not even meet the meager standards set by the Kids Live Well program. The most common kids’ meal items in America are fried potatoes and sodas. Of the restaurants analyzed, 83 percent offered fried chicken, 73 percent offered french fries or a similar fried potato option and 65 percent offered burgers. A staggering 78 percent offered soda as a beverage option. 66 percent of all kids’ meals studied exceed the already-high 770 milligrams of sodium allowed by the Kids Live Well program.
The sad fact is that these findings do not display any real surprises – we all know that french fries and soft drinks are marketed to our children on a daily basis. It is discouraging that 770 milligrams of sodium per kids’ meal is considered an acceptable standard. Additionally, there is no limit to the amount of processed foods allowed in a kids’ meal by the program – even after the huge amount of studies being published daily on their connection to cancers, autoimmune diseases, heart problems and general poor health.
The main problem with programs such as Kids Live Well is that it teaches our children the mindset that our frantic, quick-fix lifestyle is acceptable, not to mention setting a standard of ‘allowable poisons.’ The mentality that we should introduce fast foods to our children at all is preposterous.
Life is indeed busy, and modern parents usually do not have luxury of making meals from scratch every night, however there are other options to consider before mindlessly driving to the nearest fast-food joint with a ‘healthy kids’ menu’ option. Hundreds of quick and easy recipes made from whole ingredients fill the bookshelves and the internet. Cooking a big, healthy meal once or twice a week and freezing portions for use in lunches, snacks and dinners is another great option that fewer and fewer people consider nowadays.
It is our cultural mindset that needs to change, not our fast food options. Cooking at home does not need to be time-consuming, and packing a brown bag lunch takes just about as much time as waiting in a drive-thru line.
– The Alternative Daily