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National Restaurant Association - Nutrition on front burner at Kids Recipe Challenge contest

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Nutrition on front burner at Kids Recipe Challenge contest

The National Restaurant Association will shine a spotlight on what restaurateurs are doing to promote healthful eating for kids during its second annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge.

The challenge, to be held April 4-5 in Baltimore, highlights creative, healthful kids’ menu items at restaurants and foodservice operations. It’s just one way the NRA, the restaurant industry and competition sponsor McCormick for Chefs are working to ensure that children have access to healthful, flavorful foods when dining out.

“Restaurateurs recognize it‘s important to expand healthful options for children,” said Joan McGlockton, the NRA’s vice president of food policy. “Through our Kids LiveWell initiative alone, restaurants in the last two years have introduced more than 450 new kids’ meals and more than 450 side items that meet the program’s nutrition criteria.

“But just as important, restaurateurs also know that healthful meals won’t work if kids don’t like them. The meals have to taste good and create a fun experience for children. That’s what this competition is all about: recognizing restaurateurs who offer menu items that are flavorful, attractive and healthful.”

A panel of food experts, including restaurateurs, nutritionists and U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives, will select the competition’s finalists. A group of elementary-school aged children will select the competition’s winners during a tasting April 5.

All recipes meet the criteria of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program as well as the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition guidelines.

Under Kids LiveWell criteria, created by the NRA in partnership with Kids Recipe Challenge sponsor Healthy Dining Inc., a full meal must feature at least two servings of low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and consist of:

  • no more than 600 calories
  • less than 35 percent of calories from total fat
  • less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat
  • less than 0.5 grams of artificial trans fat
  • less than 35 percent of calories from total sugars
  • less than 770 mg of sodium.

The recipes during the first phase of the competition will be judged on:

  • taste
  • nutritional value
  • ease of preparation
  • cost, presentation

Gary Patterson, McCormick’s executive chef/culinary, said the Kids’ Recipe Challenge gives industry professionals a chance to not only ratchet up their culinary game, but create foods that will be readily accepted by young children whose dining habits are just being formed.

“As chefs, we have an opportunity to deliver great food and great flavor,” he said. “By managing the flavors we use, whether it’s with onion or garlic or herbs and spices, we can back away from using too much sodium and get it down to a level that’s manageable and healthier.

“Chefs are always excited about trends that allow us to use our expertise and training to help educate the industry. That is always a positive thing.”

The winners of the 2014 Kids Recipe Challenge will be announced April 5 at McCormick’s World of Flavors store in downtown Baltimore, and honored at an NRA Show 2014 ceremony in Chicago.

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