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National Restaurant Association - Chain's healthy menu changes how kids order

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Chain's healthy menu changes how kids order

A Maryland-based restaurant chain’s healthful kids’ meals continue to affect how kids and their parents order two years after it revamped its menu.

The number of Silver Diner’s healthful kids’ entrée orders increased from 3.1 percent before the menu changed to 44.6 percent a year later, according to a study by ChildObesity 180 at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. That number was 43 percent two years afterward.

Healthful children’s side orders rose from 38.4 percent before the changeover to 76.1 percent a year later and 74.8 percent two years afterward. The number of French fries ordered decreased to 25.3 percent a year later and 24.1 percent two years after from 57 percent before the switch. The amount of soda ordered dropped to 25.3 percent a year after the switch and 24.1 percent two years later. It was 34.7 percent before.

“The research supports the view that sustained behavior change is possible when healthier choices are more prevalent and prominent and made the default option,” said the study’s senior author Christina Economos, director of ChildObesity 180.

The findings were based on aggregate data from 335,209 children’s meals. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the study.

The findings, published in the November issue of Health Affairs, determined that the chain’s healthful changes not only were sustained over the two years, but in some cases improved further. In addition, the chain’s annual revenue grew 5.3 percent in 2014.

Silver Diner’s healthful offerings are aligned with the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. Since joining the initiative in 2012, Silver Diner automatically includes a fruit or vegetable side in children’s meals, and it removed French fries and soda from the kids’ menu. The changes started when Ype von Hengst, its co-founder and executive chef, reinvented the brand.

“Through menu testing and my own dedication to nutrition, we’ve created one of the healthiest children’s menus in the country,” he said. “Not only has it been embraced by kids, but our sales also have increased.”

Von Hengst challenged other restaurants to make the necessary changes on their kids’ menus.

“We – chefs, restaurateurs and suppliers – play an important role in ensuring our customers have healthy choices. By working together, we can significantly help to influence children’s eating decisions.”

Anita Jones-Mueller, CEO of Healthy Dining, the co-creator of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program, said von Hengst has become a leader in knowing how to satisfy the taste buds of children in a healthful way.  “Offering more nutritious choices has been good for his company’s bottom line.”

Pictured top right: Silver Diner executive chef Ype von Hengst

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