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National Restaurant Association - Recipe challenge offers kids dash of taste, nutrition

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Recipe challenge offers kids dash of taste, nutrition

For everyone at this year’s Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge, it was clear that Cloudy with a Chance of Spaghetti and Meatball Pizza won the hearts and appetites of the youthful judges at the contest. Read more.

The healthfully prepared pizza, one of 20 menu items reviewed by a panel of food and nutrition professionals as well as 32 elementary-school aged children, won the National Restaurant Association’s 2nd Annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge, a competition among restaurant and foodservice operators vying to create healthful and flavorful kids’ meals throughout the United States.

The winning recipe, developed by O’Charley’s Restaurants in Nashville, Tenn., won the category of multiunit restaurant company with 20 or more units. In the independent restaurant or company with fewer than 20 units, Seattle-based Bean Sprouts Café and Cooking School won for its Do-Re-Mi Sandwich featuring organic multigrain oat bread with sunflower butter and organic strawberry jam cut into piano-key shaped pieces. Suffolk, Va.-based Sysco Hampton Road won in the contract-managed foodservice category with its Kids Quesa WOW Dilla, a chicken quesadilla featuring whole wheat, broccoli, chicken, peppers and corn. And UW Health in Madison, Wis., won the independent noncommercial foodservice category with its Swimming Taco, made of fish, diced mango, fresh cabbage, lime and cilantro, in a whole wheat/corn tortilla.

The competition, sponsored by founding partner McCormick For Chefs® and nutrition consultant Healthy Dining, co-creator of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell nutrition initiative, was held April 5 at McCormick’s World of Flavors flagship store in Baltimore. The competition’s professional judges were: Louis Basile Jr., an NRA board member and president of Wildflower Bread Company; Emily Hartline, RD. LDN, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Anita Jones-Mueller, president and CEO of Healthy Dining Inc.; Thomas Macrina, president of the American Culinary Federation; Patti Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association; Leah Schmidt, president of the School Nutrition Association; and Dr. Janey Thornton, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy undersecretary of food, nutrition and consumer services.

“This was a great competition because it allowed us to see and hear what the kids wanted,” said Joan McGlockton, the NRA’s vice president of food policy. “Culinarians in the restaurant industry can spend a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting, but unless those foods are tasty for kids and unless kids enjoy these meals, they will not sell. Ultimately, it is our goal to ensure that kids eat healthfully in restaurants and that the meals we offer them are appealing and taste great.”

Megan Ford, McCormick’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the the challenge would “inspire foodservice chefs to create healthier children’s meals,” and help “kids to understand that healthy food can still taste great. The competition’s creative, flavorful entries proved just that.”

The recipes were judged on taste, perceived taste, nutritional value, ease of preparation, cost and presentation. They also were required to meet the requirements of the Kids LiveWell program, which contain no more than 600 calories and have at least two servings of low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains in them.

“I'm so excited about the momentum the Recipe Challenge brings to the Kids LiveWell program and thus to the health and quality of life of our nation's children and future generations,” Jones-Mueller said.

Basile, who also serves as chair of the NRA board’s food and healthy living committee, said the contest really made him think about how he can incorporate more healthful kids’ meals onto Wildflower’s menu.

“The contest was incredibly interesting,” he said. “The children were engaged and it was great to see them try foods they might not have tried before. At our company, we change up our menu five times a year, and we’re going to ensure we add a [healthful] kids’ special to each one.“

Pictured, top right: Louis Basile Jr., left, Megan Ford, center, and a youthful judge at this year's Kid's Recipe Challenge

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