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National Restaurant Association - Salad days: Garden Fresh dishes up kid nutrition

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Salad days: Garden Fresh dishes up kid nutrition

In the latest installment of this series, the National Restaurant Association profiles Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.'s Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation concepts as well as some of the healthful items offered as part of the Kids LiveWellSM program.

Creating their own meals without having to cook them holds great appeal for kids, and they can do just that at Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation, sister concepts operated by San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.

"There are so few places in life where kids have a lot of control, so this is fun for them," said Joan Scharff, vice president of brand and menu strategy for the fast-casual restaurant company, which specializes in fresh salads, soups and baked goods.

But in addition to offering their youthful customers fun items to choose from, both Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes have taken healthful eating seriously by joining the National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell initiative and serving several menu options that meet the program's nutritional requirements.

Several of the items on both concepts' salad bars include Romaine lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, corn, and broccoli. Additionally, guests can choose from Big Chunk chicken noodle soup, buttermilk cornbread, house chili and apple juice to round out a Kids LiveWell meal.

Still more options include skipping the salad bar entirely and pairing the Big Chunk noodle soup with a Wild Blue blueberry muffin, cornbread, skin-on smashed potatoes or a piece of Quattro Formaggio Focaccia; or chili with the muffin. All of Kids LiveWell meals are paired with apple juice as the approved beverage of choice. Honeydew, red grapes and carrots are also available as additional side items.

Scharff said the company is marketing the Kids LiveWell initiative on its website as well as through social media efforts and in family publications.

Kids LiveWell, which debuted in July 2011, has more than quadrupled its membership since then. The program, created in partnership with San Diego-based nutrition consultancy Healthy Dining, promotes menu items that meet qualifying criteria based on leading health organizations' scientific recommendations. Consumers can identify those healthful menu items by visiting healthydiningfinder.com.

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