Lunch Box News
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.
Less 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 CBSNews.com.
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 HuffingtonPost.com.