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Food & Dining

(BPT) - Whether they're traveling, celebrating a special occasion or simply spending quality time together, families across the country enjoy going to restaurants and dining out together.

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Tips for kids food choices when dining out

As consumers become more sophisticated in their tastes and diets, restaurateurs are re-engineering their menus to accommodate those needs. Today, more than ever before, restaurants are offering an array of healthful, delicious and great-tasting options that appeal to taste buds of all ages.

"Many restaurants are updating their menus so children have more nutritious choices when they dine out," says Annika Stensson, the National Restaurant Association's director of research communications. "More kids' menus feature fresh ingredients that are cooked creatively and make eating out not only healthful, but fun."

National Restaurant Association data confirms that chefs and consumers are on the same page when it comes to offering better nutrition for kids at restaurants. Healthful children's meals have become a top culinary trend.

Even though there are more nutritious choices available for children, it can sometimes be confusing for parents to figure out the better options from the more indulgent ones. Healthy Dining founder Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, has provided five simple tips to help parents find more healthful kids' meals:

1. Seek out high-quality ingredients: Look for options that are made with unprocessed ingredients and have a flavor profile kids will love. There are lots of foods prepared in various ways that parents and children can choose from. Give salmon kabobs or grilled chicken strips a try.

2. Opt for more fresh veggies and fruit: When a meal includes fresh produce, kids not only get more nutrients, but also enjoy a rainbow of tantalizing colors. Look for kids' meals that include salads, dippable sliced fruit or steamed vegetables. Fresh ingredients provide different textures that will keep young diners interested in their food.

3. Go for creativity: Kids have sophisticated palates so give them the opportunity to try new things. The fact is they like to have fun when eating out. Look for menus featuring creative kids' meals. From bento boxes and kid-friendly sushi to turkey sliders and creative noodle bowls, chefs are thinking beyond the traditional to create fun and memorable items.

4. Look for lean proteins, whole grains: To ensure that kids feel full and satisfied after eating their meals, choose options made with lean proteins and whole grains. They are two important components of a well-rounded diet. Proteins and whole grains also help you feel fuller longer.

5. Use a trusted resource: The National Restaurant Association's Kids LiveWell program showcases restaurants that meet strict nutritional criteria for children's foods. Find Kids LiveWell restaurants at www.healthydiningfinder.com or download the mobile app for quick reference on the go.

Restaurant operators are increasingly committed to providing healthful meals for kids, and these tips can help parents select tasty, wholesome foods for their families.

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