As children's nutrition gains in popularity among consumers and operators, the National Restaurant Association and McCormick for Chefs have joined together to spotlight the industry's commitment to providing more healthful menu options for kids.
The Kids Recipe Challenge, to be held May 20 during this year’s NRA show in Chicago, will showcase some of the most healthful, creative options available when dining out and honor the chefs and restaurateurs who create them. Applications to participate will be accepted until March 1.
Recently, Joan McGlockton, the NRA’s vice president of industry affairs and food policy, talked about the Challenge and the growing trend toward more healthful kids’ options at restaurants.
What is the Kids Recipe Challenge?
The NRA and McCormick for Chefs are working together to launch the Kids Recipe Challenge. This contest is a great opportunity for chefs in various segments of the industry – such as multiunit and independent restaurants and contract and independent noncommercial foodservice to submit their recipes and be recognized for their creativity in developing healthful options for kids. The recipes must adhere to the guidelines established by the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program, which emphasizes the use of whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat dairy, while limiting the use of unhealthful fats, sugars and sodium. In addition, the contestants also will have to create recipes that can be reproduced in a cost- and time-effective manner. Following the competition, the NRA, McCormick and a group of elementary-school-aged children will select a winner from each category.
How important is providing healthful items on kids’ menus?
If you look at the Association’s latest What’s Hot study, it indicates that consumers are much more interested in seeking out healthful menu items, especially for their kids. This is the No. 1 trend in kids’ dining. Parents are looking for options that contain more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Our industry is one that’s always been creative, that strives to meet its customers’ needs and desires, so with customers telling us they’re looking for more healthful choices and with the obesity crisis we’ve faced in this country, it’s timely for our operators to look at ways they can expand their healthful menu options. And for us, as an Association, it’s an opportunity to look at how we can help showcase what our industry is doing and encourage it to do even more.
Is childhood obesity still a problem in the United States?
Yes. There is still a problem in this country for both adults and children so we need to continue focusing on this in a number of ways. Certainly, within the restaurant industry, one of the things we can do is continue to inform adult consumers about the nutritional quality of the food they’re eating and make sure we’re providing appropriate options for them and their children.
What does the NRA hope to achieve through the Kids Recipe Challenge?
Our research shows that chefs’ culinary creativity often influences what operators serve on their menus. That said, we see this contest as an opportunity to encourage those chefs to use their creativity and think about how they can design new items for kids that are different from the traditional items offered at restaurants. We think by recognizing that creativity, it will help inspire others to participate as well and also help parents to learn more about what the industry is doing to address their desire for more healthful items for their kids. We just really want to put the spotlight on those chefs and operators who are doing creative, fun and healthful things for kids.
Pictured top right: Joan McGlockton
Main photo: Statistics show adult consumers and their kids are seeking more healthful choices when they dine out.