Healthy fast food is on its way to a restaurant near you

Ever since chicken nuggets and french fries were first given kid-friendly packaging and accompanying toys, kids have been throwing temper tantrums to convince their parents to drive them to the local burger chain. But last week Burger King and 18 other chains — 15,000 restaurants in all — ensured that you parents will have the chance to dupe your kids into actually eating “healthy” at their favorite fast-food joints.

So the next time your precious little one throws a fit if he or she doesn’t get to go to BK for breakfast, don’t put up a fight. Instead, say, “Sure, honey, we can go to Burger King for breakfast. You should get the kids’ meal.” Little will they know that that now means a breakfast muffin sandwich with fresh apple fries and fat-free milk.

Burger King’s new healthy kids’ menu is part of the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell initiative, a campaign focused on keeping our kids healthy by limiting their consumption of the fatty, greasy delicious stuff that we eat while watching them cry over their “apple fries.” (Kidding: Cancel that Triple Whopper order, you hypocrite, and get a freaking salad. Why are you even eating at Burger King?!)

Under Kids LiveWell, the 19 participating food chains must offer and promote a food selection that meets criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines. The program is expected to expand to thousands more restaurants within a week.

To qualify as healthy enough for Kids LiveWell menus, the restaurants must:

  • Offer an entrée, side and beverage with 600 calories or less; two servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; and limited sodium, fats and sugar;
  • Offer at least one other item with 200 calories or less that has limited fats, sugars and sodium, and contains one serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy;
  • Display or make available upon request the nutrition profile of the healthy menu options; and
  • Promote/identify the healthful menu options.

One-in-3 U.S. children are obese, and parents need to take responsibility for this epidemic. If your kid looks like Bobby Moynihan in that “Saturday Night Live” high-fructose corn syrup commercial skit, this program could be good for him/her!

Here’s the list of the 19 restaurant chains participating in the Kids LiveWell program:

  • Au Bon Pain
  • Bonefish Grill
  • Burger King
  • Burgerville
  • Carrabba’s Italian Grill
  • Chevys Fresh Mex
  • Chili’s Grill & Bar
  • Corner Bakery Café
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Denny’s
  • El Pollo Loco
  • Friendly’s
  • IHOP
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Silver Diner
  • Sizzler
  • T-Bones Great American Eatery
  • Zpizza

Go to for more info.

UPDATE: The Golden Arches are slimming down a little, too! McDonald’s finally gave in to pressure from anti-obesity campaigns July 26, when it announced that its Happy Meals were taking a 20% calorie reduction, with a 50% decrease in the amount of french fries and the addition of fruit, according to the New York Times.

The new Happy Meals will be introduced in September and will, in most cases, contain apple slices — WITHOUT the caramel sauce! — and the option of substituting vegetables for fries upon request. McDonald’s sweetened the deal by unsweetening the kids’ meal a bit more: Instead of soda, the fast food chain will offer a choice of milk with 1% fat or fat-free chocolate milk.

While chicken nuggets still aren’t exactly healthy, this is at least a step in the right direction. And the sugar reduction will give parents a chance to have a quieter ride home from McDonald’s.