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Children’s menus now must meet stricter requirements for National Restaurant Association certification

After 10 years, the Association updated its Kids LiveWell program to conform with current nutrition science.
Kids eating in a restaurant
Photograph: Shutterstock

The National Restaurant Association announced an update to its Kids LiveWell initiative on Tuesday, the first change since the program's 2011 launch.

In an update that impacts nearly 13,000 restaurants, children's meals must now meet stricter requirements for certification in the program. The program is designed to steer families toward healthier choices on kids’ menus.

The new guidelines conform with current health recommendations and nutrition science regarding sodium, fat, sugar and other dietary components. The major changes include:

  • Adding a default beverage policy. A default beverage policy for the kid’s menu can only include water, low-fat or non-fat milk or 100% fruit or vegetable juice. 
  • Eliminating artificial trans fats. Following the FDA ban on artificial trans fats, industrially produced trans fat is no longer allowed in Kids LiveWell meals. 
  • Removing fat calorie allowance. Along with removing trans-fat allowances, the updated program no longer assesses total fat calories, but continues to limit calories from saturated fat. 
  • Update to added sugar criterion. The program no longer focuses on calories from total sugar and instead shifts to limits on added sugars.
  • Reduced sodium threshold. The criteria lowers the sodium threshold for both meals and sides in an effort to reduce sodium by 10% in response to public health recommendations. 
  • Changing the type of dairy products allowed. The new default beverage menu includes 1% and non-fat milk varieties only, following public health recommendations.
  • Expanding the number of certified menu items. The program now requires that two meals and two sides be certified to meet the Kids LiveWell criteria at a restaurant.

“For nearly a decade, chefs have identified ‘kids nutrition’ in the top 20 food trends annually, underscoring the importance of our youngest patrons and the choices their parents are seeking from restaurants,” said Marvin Irby, interim president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, in a statement.

About 13,000 restaurants across the U.S. currently have Kids LiveWell-approved menu items, but those certified in the original program must have existing meals and sides recertified by Jan. 1, 2022. The Association has a third-party registered dietitian validate and approve the items.

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