Fast food rolls out healthier kids menus. At last.

Turkey Sliders for healthy kids at Silver Diner.
Turkey Sliders for healthy kids at Silver Diner.

An army of 19 major chain restaurants have banded together to offer healthier options for kids. The Kids Live Well campaign, announced today, rolls out more choices and a little less soda-pushing, at major franchises from Burger King to iHop.
To join the movement, chain restaurants have to meet certain criteria:

  • at least one kid's meal option(entree, side and drink) under 600 calories

  • a side under 200 calories with under 35% of those calories from sugar

  • the option to swap out fries and soda for the healthier side and beverage

  • entrees must include two of the following: whole grains, veggies, fruit, lean protein and lower-fat dairy.

Some fairly big names have already made the team including Cracker Barrel, Chili's and Denny's. Overall not all of the dishes are necessarily good for kids, but they are an improvement. Now for the million dollar question: will your kids really go for fruit sides over the fries without a tantrum? Maybe if that fruit is cut in the shape of french fries or if it's a summer favorite like watermelon. Kids aren't dumb. Based on the handy campaign website ( some restaurants are offering a solid, creative combo of healthier fare while others are making a more feeble attempt at attracting kids.

First the more appealing kid's Kid's Live Well menu options:

  • Au Bon Pain's Grilled Chicken on Multigrain bread with a side of watermelon and low fat milk (410 calories, 8 grams of fat).

  • Chevys' Kiddie Chicken or Beef Taco with grilled veggies, carrots and celery side, and apple juice (450-490 calories, 13-14 grams of fat)

  • Silver Diner's Kid's Turkey Sliders with strawberries (570 calories, 16 grams of fat)

  • Cracker Barrel's Grilled Chicken Tenders with corn and apple juice (410 calories, 11 grams of fat)

  • Burger King's Kid's Hamburger with apple "fries" and fat free milk (420 calories, 11 grams of fat)

Now the lazier menus at chain restaurants in the campaign:

  • Chili's grilled chicken platter with either oranges, celery or broccoli. It's definitely healthier, but how about carrots with that celery? And since orange juice comes with the meal, why also offer kids mandarin oranges as a side?

  • At Friendly's there's a garden salad with chicken and a side of orange juice. Eh.

  • IHOP lets kids swap out fruit for hash browns which is great but a little more creativity in the waffle department will be welcome.

Overall, the campaign is still a supersize accomplishment in the fast food world. With 19 brands involved, healthier kid's menus seems like more of a change of tide than a trend. And maybe with a little time and some competition, the good-for-you options will continue to get as creative as the fried fare. In the meantime, the campaign welcomes more chains to hop on the bandwagon. Hear that McDonald's?

Related links:
Drive-thru nutrition
Should toys be banned in happy meals?
How fast food ads affect kids
Fast food takes toys out of kids' meals