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Healthy Eating Hotspots For Kids

Greasy burgers and fries are so 2010! In the April issue of  Parents magazine, they listed their 10 best family restaurants of 2011 from a poll of more than 150 national restaurant chains.

They looked at everything from healthy food options, quality of the ingredients to conveniences like online ordering and goodies to keep kids busy.  Lucky us, we have 6 of them…

#4  Red Lobster
Four of the seven dishes on the children’s menu are seafood. In addition to Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewers, kids can opt for broiled fish of the day, snow crab legs, or popcorn shrimp, all of which come with orange slices or steamed broccoli. When you add in low-fat milk or juice, any seafood kids’ meal will be less than 350 calories and 12 grams of fat.

#5  Chipotle
Their kids’ menu features a “taco kit,” where they get to choose three ingredients and take them back to the table to fill their own tortillas.  All their menu items are served with chips and juice or organic milk.

All dairy products are hormone-free and most of the meat is antibiotic-free and lower in sodium than most store-bought Mexican food (the crispy taco shells have only 10mg of sodium apiece). Plus, the chain requires each restaurant to locally source at least 50 percent of one produce item. Another bonus for families of kids with food allergies,  the entire restaurant is peanut- and tree-nut free.

#6  Noodles & Company
The closest one to us is in Portland, but if you find yourself in the area, definitely put it on your to-do list.  Rather than having a separate kids’ menu, they offer  noodles, soups, and salads  in two sizes, small and regular. You can add or swap more than 14 veggies and protein-rich foods, like chicken, organic tofu, and shrimp to any of the dishes.

#7  Red Robin
Ah, Red Robin…I might as well move in, it’s our go-to spot, and out here in Seattle, I suspect it’s yours too! Their latest addition to their kids’ menu, is grilled chicken on Popsicle sticks. Any sandwich (for kids or adults) can be wrapped in lettuce or served on a whole-wheat bun.

Free balloons, kid-size sinks in the restrooms of new locations, and Tuesday-night appearances by “Red,” the mascot, are among the other family-friendly perks. And who can forget the birthday sundae/song 1-2 combo punch?

#9  Panera Bread
We love us some Panera Bread! The kids’ menu includes  smoked turkey, ham, and grilled-cheese sandwiches on whole-grain bread and all have roughly 300 calories.  All kids’ meals come with organic squeezable yogurt or an apple. To drink, there are organic milk and apple-juice boxes.

#10 P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
The chain encourages family-style dining with lower-calorie, lower-sodium picks like  Salmon Steamed With Ginger. You can make any chicken or fish entrée healthier by requesting that it be cooked in vegetable stock rather than oil and soy sauce.

They have a new kids’ menu with choices like chicken fried rice,  lo mein, and a steamed-vegetable platter and served with steamed brown or white rice. Plus, all kids get easy-to-use chopsticks and coloring pages that teach them about Chinese culture.

Please note that menu items, nutrition information, and availabilities are subject to change;  contact each restaurant for up-to-date menus before visiting.

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