Lunch Box News

Burger King, Chili’s, IHOP Will Make Kids Menus Healthier

Parents seeking healthier restaurant meals for their kids can start to look beyond chicken nuggets and macaroni-and-cheese.

At least 19 large restaurant chains - including Burger King, Chili's, IHOP and Friendly's - plan to announce Wednesday that they will include healthier options on their children's menus. At least 15,000 restaurant locations will focus on increasing servings of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. The items will have less fats, sugars and sodium.

Healthy EatingLess healthy foods like burgers and fries will still be on the menu, but the restaurants say they will do more to promote healthier options. Chili's, for example, will highlight a chicken sandwich with a side of pineapple or mandarin oranges on their kids' menu. Burger King has recently reformulated children's chicken nuggets so they include less sodium, and employees taking orders will ask if customers want healthier apple fries instead of the standard "fries with that?"

The effort is part of a new National Restaurant Association initiative to give kids more healthy options at restaurants and to make it easier for parents to find those options. Some of the items are already on menus, but restaurants will advertise them more prominently and flag the healthier menu items to make ordering easier.

To be part of the program, restaurants must include at least one kids' menu item that is 600 calories or less and meets other nutritional requirements. A side dish worth less than 200 calories must also be included.

"This could provide a great push toward healthier offerings at restaurants," said Robert Post, the Agriculture Department official in charge of developing the department's dietary guidelines, which came out earlier this year. Those urged Americans to eat less salt.

"We hope this is a trend toward new items and voluntary reformulations," Post said.

The companies signing up for the initiative are Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Chevys, Chili's, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Friendly's, IHOP, Joe's Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery and zpizza.

Joe Taylor of Chili's said the company has responded to consumer demands for healthier foods. While diners looking for a healthier meal used to have to ask for substitutions, they now have more options.

"We've seen our guests customize their meals to a greater degree when they are looking to hold the mayo or add the broccoli," Taylor said.

Patrick Lenow of IHOP said the restaurant will add two new children's menu items because of the effort, including pancakes with fruit and scrambled eggs with fruit. The company had already limited everything on their children's menu to under 600 calories and made fruit a default side, instead of fries - a change that has dramatically increased fruit consumption at the restaurants, Lenow said.

Several restaurant chains haven't committed yet to joining the effort. Maggiano's, owned with Chili's by Brinker International, is not part of the program. Neither is McDonald's, the world's largest burger chain.

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said the group is hoping to add additional restaurants to the effort in coming months.

First lady Michelle Obama last year attended a National Restaurant Association meeting in Washington and pleaded with them to take a little butter or cream out of their dishes, use low-fat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the kids' menu. She said Americans eat a third of their meals in restaurants, which have long been seen by many as the worst offenders in terms of nutrition.

Many restaurant companies are starting to reformulate menu items and add new healthier sections to their menus, however, as consumers have shown a heightened interest in nutrition.

The federal government will also soon require restaurants to post calories on their menus. FDA guidelines will require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains, to clearly post the calories.

John Dillon of Denny's said the company recently took photos of French fries off their menus.

"Where before we may have been concerned about not having French fries pictured on our menu, we're now finding that has actually helped our business," he said.

 Original AP article appeared on

Chicago Considers Tightening Curfew For Kids Under 12

Chicago is a toddlin' town, but if you're under 12, some city officials want you toddlin' off by 8:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Michelle Harris, Aldermen Toni Foulkes and Lona Lane want to ratchet back the city's curfew for the under 12 crowd. It currently stands at 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends for all kids under 17.

Chicago Considers Tightening Curfew For Kids Under 12
Curfew used to be a half longer until it was trimmed by then Mayor Richard M. Daley two years ago. More trimming is needed for younger children, according to Harris, Foulkes and Lane.

Some parents, however, are telling them to mind their own bee's wax.

"It's an attempt for the city council to parent," mother Karen Hobbs tells the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's up to parents to parent. I don't think setting an arbitrary curfew at different ages is going to solve the problem."

Another parent, Toseima Jiles, tells the paper the curfew is necessary -- especially when parents don't take their responsibilities seriously.

"We're at a point where we have to be more conscious of where our children are," she tells the Sun-Times. "When was growing up, your parents knew where you were, the neighbors knew where you were. I think we're getting away from that."

Alderman Harris tells the Sun-Times if the extended curfew saves even one young life, it will be worth the criticism.

"I grew up in a community where the standard rule was children had to be in by the time the street lights came on. I'd be lucky if my parents let me out of the house when dinner was over," Harris tells the paper.

"It wasn't that our communities were so terrible," she adds. "It's just that our parents knew how to protect us. This gives police another tool to help those parents who, maybe, don't have the best parenting skills or understand that pulling a child off the street at a certain time is a protection. Many times, children are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That child should be in the house."

Foulkes added that "kids in our neighborhoods are out at all times of night" and it's time city officials protect younger children.

"What happens to the 8-year-olds? They had the same curfew as the 17-year-old. If they're walking on the street at night, they can be recruited by gang members," Foulkes tells the paper.

But is a tougher curfew really getting to the heart of the problem?

"The city needs to give children more things to do rather than force them into confinement," Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education tells the Sun-Times.

A stricter curfew must be coupled with programs that teach better parenting skills, adds Philip Jackson, the executive director of the Black Star Project.

"I can live with a lower curfew for children under 13 as being part of a comprehensive fix," he tells the paper. "But if all you're talking about is a tougher curfew for 12-year-olds, that's not going to fix anything."

Summer Fun and Games: You Could Be Your Kid’s Favorite Toy

Most children would do anything to have their busy parents get on the floor and play with them, especially in their early years. Credit: Getty Images

Pop quiz: What toy does your child most want to play with this summer?

It's a trick question.

Summer Fun and Games: You Could Be Your Kids Favorite Toy
"Believe it or not, you are your child's favorite play toy," family therapist, blogger and mother of two Amy Wickstrom tells ParentDish.

Wickstrom, a contributor to Working Mother, OC Family and more, also writes the blog More Than a Toy. She tells ParentDish it is important for parents to play with their children, especially during the summer when kids have more time and their hands and are crying out for parental interaction.

"Most children would do anything to have their busy parents get on the floor and play with them, especially in their early years," Wickstrom tells ParentDish. "Take 10 or 15 minutes to give them your undivided attention and interact with them and the toys they are playing with."

Need some suggestions?

"Do a family craft," Wickstrom suggests. "Run to your local craft store and pick out a craft to do with your child (such as building a bird house). Build enthusiasm for it by including your child in choosing what the craft will be, picking out the supplies together, learning about it more (for example, if doing a bird house, research different kinds of birds with your child and find out which birds visit your yard, etc.) and determining the time you will do it (simple crafts can be done in one sitting, but other crafts, such as building a model plane, could be done over several weeks during the summer)."

Some of the simplest games create the most lasting memories, she adds, such as hide-and-go-seek.

"One of my favorite memories as a child was playing kick the can and hide-and-go-seek with the other kids on my street," Wickstrom tells ParentDish. "Sadly, our age of technology often squelches a child's natural tendency to be outside and play with other children. Simple, all-time favorite childhood games are disappearing."

You can help combat that trend with a trip to the library, she says.

"Parents can take their kids to the local library to pick out a book and read it together there," she says. "Many libraries have special rooms just for children that are filled with toys and sometimes a stage with props for story time. This helps engage children in their imagination, have quality time with a parent and develop their reading skills. It also keeps them accustomed to old fashioned books instead of eBooks.

Websites such as have some other low-cost ways to build lifelong memories. Here are a few:

1. See a $1 movie. Many theaters offer summer movie programs for kids. If you're not so lucky, consider a movie day at home with a rental or streaming online video.

2. Hold Sprinkler Day. Delay your sprinklers for one day so they come on a little later in the morning. Then everyone can get in their bathing suits and jump through the sprinklers on a hot day. This also conserves water and reduces utility costs.

3. Go fly a kite. Check the 10-day forecast and look for a windy day in the coming week. Pick up a cool kite for the kids.

4. Make homemade Play-Doh. It's basically just water and flour. There are all sorts of recipes available online.

5. Build a "fort" in the living room. You remember this from when you were a kid. All it takes are some cushions and a sofa. If you want to get all fancy, you can use some large boxes and (with parental supervision, of course) some box cutters.

6. Go bowling. Bowling alleys often have special rates for families and will put out the bumpers so kids don't roll gutter balls.

7. Have a water pistol fight. Water pistols are often no more than $2. Pick up a couple and have a duel. If you want to make it a teachable moment, read up on the history and etiquette of dueling and make that part of the experience.

8. Hold Pajama Day. Stay in your pajamas all day.

9. Spend a day volunteering. There are lots of places you can volunteer and teach kids the importance of helping out. One idea might be the local Humane Society.

10. Have your kids come up with their own shirt designs, then have a custom T-shirt printing service print them up.

It’s So Hot Outside: Tips on Keeping Kids Safe in the Summer Heat

Yep, we know: It's hot out there. Like, really, really hot. Like, so hot you really don't want to step outside of your air conditioned bubble. But how much TV can you allow your kids to watch before you just break down and decide to brave the heat index and head outside?

Be sure you follow some expert advice on keeping your kids as cool as possible, WGN in Chicago reports.

It’s So Hot Outside: Tips on Keeping Kids Safe in the Summer Heat
"Young children are especially vulnerable to heat because they produce more heat at rest, they have a higher body surface area to mass ratio and they absorb more heat," Dr. Karen Sheehan of Children's Memorial Hospital, tells the TV station. "They don't sweat as well as adults. An adult and adolescent who are healthy, it takes about four days to get used to this type of weather, but for a kid it's about two weeks and that puts them at much more risk."

First up: the car. Just don't leave your kids in there. Even for a few minutes as you run into the store.

"We've only had our in-car thermometer in for about 20 minutes, if that," Jessica Choi of Safe Kids Illinois tells WGN. "We've already got a difference of 10 degrees. Its 10 degrees hotter in the car than it is outside."

Next: Keep kids away from open windows, especially on upper level floors.

"If you need to open windows, open from the top down," Amy Hill, injury prevention manager at Children's Memorial, tells WGN. "Also, move furniture away from the windows so kids can't crawl on top and fall out. That's what happens most often, people don't think about the couch being near the window. They crack the window for some circulation and the kid climbs up and falls out. It's a huge problem in Chicago."

And, as always: Don't take your eyes off a child playing in a swimming pool.

"It's important for parents and caregivers to remember that babies and toddlers can drown in one inch of water," Hill tells WGN. "Empty all buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after you are done using them."

Kids Eating More and More Meals Away From Home

People used to complain that kids eat too often in front of the television instead of at the family dinner table.

Have no fear. Researchers have found kids rarely eat at home at all.

They get their nutrition (if you use the word "nutrition" loosely) from fast-food restaurants. And they're going for the large fries.

Kids Eating More and More Meals Away From Home
Coincidentally, there seems to be this obesity epidemic in the United States.

Research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association points to the increasing amount of food kids take from fast-food restaurants, as well as food that comes fully prepared at grocery stories.

"Overall, this study highlights the continuing rapid shifts in the sources of food for children in the United States -- both where it's eaten and where it's prepared," Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, tells Medical News Today.

"These results underscore the need to deepen our understanding of food preparation and consumption patterns, and further pinpoint where research and programmatic activity should focus," he adds. "The differences in energy intake by eating location revealed in this analysis demonstrate that eating location is an important factor in the diet of American children."

Popkin says American children increased their daily calorie consumption by 179 calories between 1977 and 2006.

His study found that it is linked to a rise in calories consumed away from home -- estimated to be an increase of about 255 calories per day.

In 1977, he estimates kids consumed 23.4 percent of their daily calories away from home, compared with 33.9 percent in 2006.

5 Summer Vacations Your Tween Won’t Hate

What tween wants to go on a family vacation when she could stay home and text her pals? Not to mention, avoid the sheer humiliation of being seen with her parents in public.

But we asked travel experts to offer up trips that will guarantee even your hardest-to-please tween will crack a smile -- or two. We've got five options to consider when planning your next adventure.

1. Pick a theme, any theme. Tweens like to feel as if they have control over their own destiny, and letting them choose a vacation itinerary that appeals to them makes everyone happier.

Jeff Siegel, author of "RelationTrips," the true story of his quest to see every Major League baseball field in the country, along with his son, tells ParentDish choosing a theme for your trip that interests both you and your child can not only reduce the number of complaints you hear, but also will bring you closer together during this dicey phase of their lives.

"Brainstorm about common interests shared by family members," Siegel advises. "This can take a few hours or a few weeks. Consider surfing the Web for ideas or placing a suggestion box in the kitchen. Then hold a meeting to choose the official theme."

2. Get on your bike. Biking is experiencing something of a Renaissance these days, and, thanks to the Tour De France, your tween is certain to love the idea of a trip that not only taps into a popular sport but also allows for a lot of room to change your mind -- for which tweens are notorious.

"The days are designed for ease and flexibility, so each member of the family will enjoy the perfect amount of activity," Dede Sullivan of DuVine Adventures, a company that arranges bike tours abroad, tells ParentDish.

3. Take them on the grand tour. Gone are the days when parents used to send their children on a grand tour of every country in Europe, but, with planning, you can still take your kids abroad for a week or two.

Tweens are the perfect age to deal with the air travel required to get to the Continent, and they are also ripe to get the most out of their exposure to other cultures.

"In our experience, kids ages 7 to 16 are ideal for traveling on family adventures (abroad) that include everything from hiking and biking to river rafting and sea kayaking," Edward Piegza, president and co-founder of Classic Journeys, a tour company, tells ParentDish. "And right in the middle of that ideal age spread? The what-have-you-done-for-me-lately tweens."

Piegza says part of the equation for happy family travel is making sure the plan includes something for everyone -- even the grown-ups. After all, it's your vacation, too.

"As a parent, I personally can vouch for the joy of sharing hydrofoil rides and peering into a volcano alongside our tween sons on the Amalfi Coast," he tells ParentDish. "But that's not to say my wife and I don't welcome the chance to spend time with the other grown-ups on tour, whether it's lingering over a gourmet meal or wine tasting or taking long, leisurely walks that would only make the kids antsy."

4. Pitch a tent. There's just something special about sleeping under the stars. Going into the wild for family fun ensures that you have to unplug from all your phones and gadgets and actually talk to one another.

You don't have to limit your trip to a tent and a campfire, either. With a little research, you can plan a trip that includes plenty of outdoor adventures, from whitewater rafting to ziplines in the forest to rock climbing and hiking.

5. The last resort. When all else fails, even the grouchiest tween will have a hard time resisting the idea of an all-inclusive tropical resort. Pools, beaches and all the tropical mocktails you can drink make for a relaxing vacation for the whole family.

A resort vacation also lets tweens have plenty of alone time, without causing too much angst for their parents. Kids can wander the confines of the resort to their hearts' content without getting into trouble.

Some resorts, such as the Montage Laguna Beach in California, even offer structured fun for your tween -- sans parents. Activities including kayaking, snorkeling and extreme scavenger hunts make the days fly by -- and they let you relax poolside while someone else entertains your kid.

Original article appears on

Sneak Veggies Into Your Kids Meals

Can't get your kids to eat their veggies?

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have a cunning plan. They suggest you discreetly add broccoli, zucchini and all that other green stuff to kids' meals.

Reuters news service reports their research found kids get more vegetables that way. And, while most of us might detect puree of broccoli on our macaroni and cheese, the little rubes don't even seem to notice the difference.

"We think of it as not deception, but recipe improvement," Barbara Rolls, one of the researchers, tells Reuters. "In this group of kids, we got most of them meeting their daily vegetable requirements -- that's pretty amazing."

Although the study was done in day care centers, researcher Maureen Spill tells Reuters parents could easily pull the same stunt at home. All they need is a blender.

Rolls says the technique can even work on older but equally stubborn children ... like husbands.

Sneak Veggies Into Your Kids Meals
Adding pureed vegetables into adults' meals meant they ate more veggies and fewer total calories, she adds. Most of them couldn't taste the extra veggies, either.

According to Reuters, researchers fed prepared meals to 40 kids ages 3 to 5 one day a week for three weeks. The meals looked the same each day -- zucchini bread at breakfast, pasta with tomato sauce at lunch and a chicken noodle casserole at dinner.

One day's worth of meals was prepared normally -- with a typical veggie in each entree. On the other two days, researchers added pureed cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini and tomatoes to triple or quadruple every dish's dose of vegetables.

After each meal, researchers weighed the food to determine how much kids ate. The preschoolers were also allowed to eat non-doctored side dishes and snacks during the day -- including fruit, cheese and crackers.

Compared to the day when they ate standard meals, Reuters reports, kids almost doubled their total vegetable intake on the day they ate high-vegetable dishes.

"I would urge parents to try to get vegetables into their kids' meals wherever they can," Rolls tells Reuters. "This is an additional strategy that you put on top of exposing kids to real vegetables, eating the vegetables with the kids, (and) being persistent in exposing them to vegetables."

Kids are Like Scientists, and Not Just Mad Ones

"Experiment. Make it your motto day and night. Experiment. And it will lead you to the light." -- Cole Porter

We commonly refer to something simple as mere child's play.

Kids are Like Scientists, and Not Just Mad Ones
However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University say there is nothing "mere" about child's play. Children are actually performing complex experiments.

They are little scientists, Wired magazine reports.

To prove just how scientifically children approach their work, researchers gave a group of them a toy that lights up and plays music when the child places certain beads on. When children didn't know which beads would activate the toy -- what scientists call "ambiguous evidence" -- they tested each variable in turn.

Laura Schulz, a professor at MIT, tells Wired it's like someone trying unsuccessfully to open a door with a key.

"You might change the position of the key, you might change the key, but you're not going to change both at once," she says.

Researchers say their study begins to "bridge the gap between scientific inquiry and child's play."

Remember that the next time you find flour scattered all over the kitchen. Scientific discovery can be messy.

When New Mom Can’t Breast-Feed, Dozens of Women Help Out

Eva van Dok Pinkley, a Brooklyn, N.Y., actress and magazine researcher can't breast-feed her newborn because she had a double mastectomy last year.

No matter. The London Daily Mail reports 25 women are pumping and donating their breast milk.

When New Mom Can’t Breast-Feed, Dozens of Women Help Out
"What they are doing, it's not easy to do," van Dok Pinkley tells the newspaper. "I'm just stunned at the amount of trouble that they are going through for me. I think of them and what they have done and give thanks."

Van Dok Pinkley got pregnant last September after a battle with breast cancer so intense she had given up having children. She had abandoned hope after miscarriages, failed fertility treatments and then her cancer.

When she and her husband, Stuart, finally found out they were having a baby, she knew she couldn't breast-feed. So she began doing research on the Internet.

After consultations with doctors and lactation consultants, the Mail reports, she began asking for donations from other expecting mothers at her yoga studio, via email lists and through friends.

Among the women who responded was Kristi Guigliano, the mother of an 8-month-old boy.

"The first time Eva and I met, it was a very emotional thing to, first of all, have found someone so perfect, so close and so in need of the milk," Guigliano tells the newspaper.

The Mail reports the women are either ongoing donors, one-time donors or soon-to-be moms who have pledged milk if they have some left over.

"When they told me what they were doing, I thought, 'Only in New York,' " Stuart Van Dok Pinkley tells the Mail.

Only in New York? Not really.

In 2009, ParentDish reported on Robbie Goodrich, a widowed English professor in Marquette, Mich. When his wife died shortly after his son, Moses, was born, more than two dozen women shared their breast milk with the infant.

Pregnant Moms Who Use Mouthwash Not as Likely to Have Preemies, Study Finds

"Floss, floss, floss!" You've been commanded by dentists for years to heed that advice. Now, it may be time to add "mouthwash, mouthwash, mouthwash!" to your oral health routine.

Lunch Box News - Pregnant Moms Who Use Mouthwash Not as Likely to Have Preemies, Study Finds
A new study finds pregnant moms with gum disease have a better chance of delivering full-term babies if they use mouthwash while they're expecting, Reuters reports, as pregnant women with periodontal disease have more premature babies than moms with healthy gums.

Researchers found when women used an alcohol-free mouth rinse, the risk of early labor seemed to be decreased by three-quarters, according to the news service.

Reuters notes staff and funding from the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, came from Procter and Gamble -- a company that makes mouthwash.

The study doesn't draw specific conclusions, but Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, lead author and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, tells the news service dental care is crucial.

"They need to use a soft toothbrush and floss the right way," wrapping the floss around the tooth, she told Reuters in an earlier interview. "The first goal with almost all dental disease is prevention, prevention, prevention."

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