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National Restaurant Association - Chef has big appetite for healthful kids’ meals

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Chef has big appetite for healthful kids’ meals

At Great New Hampshire Restaurants, serving healthful options for kids is the order of the day.

The company is committed to providing children and their families the ability to choose fun, nutritious foods. To succeed, Great New Hampshire Restaurants joined the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell initiative to create menu items featuring whole grains, lean protein, and more fruit and vegetables. Says corporate chef Nicole Barreira: The goal is to be a resource for parents who want to introduce their children to eating more healthfully when they dine out.

“There are parents who want their children to be able to choose something different, like salmon or barbecued chicken or a salad,” she said. “To be able to provide those options and list the nutrition information along with our association with the NRA and Kids LiveWell adds a lot of value to our menu.”

The company got involved with Kids LiveWell after CEO Tom Boucher, an NRA board member, became more aware of the child obesity issue. As the plan took hold, Barreira and her culinary team re-engineered adult selections on the menus to meet the program’s criteria. The portions were scaled down, then marinated, sauced and cooked more healthfully.

“Because we make everything from scratch, we really had a large palette to work with and a lot of whole foods to choose from,” she said. “We really just went into the kitchens and inventories for our brands and came up with recipes that fit the program’s requirements. My whole process was to start with clean foods and then add flavor profiles kids like.”

Today, Great New Hampshire’s three concepts – T Bones, Cactus Jack’s and Copper Door -- feature three Kids LiveWell items. The items resonate with parents, especially moms, Barreira noted.

“Even if we only sell five of the meals some days, it’s important we have them on the menu,” she said. “Parents know they’re there, and a lot of moms tell us that’s the reason they dine with us, because there’s something healthier for them, their teenagers and kids to eat.”

As a spokeswoman for her company, a chef who loves food, and a mom, Barreira said giving children healthful choices is exciting.

“The goal is to consistently provide options for folks who want them,” she said. “When we feed 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds, we should be able to make sure they’re not just exposed to packaged foods dropped into a Fryolator. We can help shape their eating habits as they get older.”

Pictured top right: The grilled chicken salad, a Kids Live Well optiion at Great New Hampshire's T-Bones concept, and above right: the barbecued chicken at Cactus Jack's

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