My mission to find healthier restaurants

I have been writing about family friendly dining destinations for Chicago Parent magazine for a few years now. I don’t necessarily cover “kids” restaurants, but try to focus on establishments whose menu and ambiance appeal to adults while remaining open to children. It’s a great gig which has allowed my sons and I to eat at many places which we would not have normally chosen. One of these days I’ll get around to making a list of all those places, but all of my stories can be found at chicagoparent.com.

Earlier this year, I received a press release about a Chicago group called Healthy Fare for Kids.

The Healthy Fare for Kids initiative is a grass-roots project seeking assistance from restaurants to offer healthier food for children on their menus.

Our goal is to improve the overall health of children in America, starting with kids in our own back yard. With the rate of childhood obesity escalating at an alarming pace and the City of Chicago surpassing the national rate, we are asking our restaurant neighbors to help with this issue.

We believe that restaurants are partners in helping children make the connection between what they eat, how they feel and the health benefits of nutritionally rich foods. Healthy menu items in restaurants help children make good food choices and continue the life-long journey of being healthy.

Healthy Fare for Kids has partnered with really outstanding Chicago chefs including Sarah Stegner (Prairie Grass Café), Michael Kornick (MK) and Paul Virant (Vie and Perennial Virant). The more I read about the organization and the participating restaurants, the more I have considered trying to focus my Good to Go column on the delicious and nutritious ways families can enjoy dining out. (That’s not to say I won’t include the occasional ice cream stand – but I can find the balance.)

Our first foray in an official Healthy Fare for Kids establishment was brunch at Nookies Edgewater . We loved it and were so impressed by the multitude of options, even within the Healthy Fare standards. If you’re interested in reading that story, you can find it at http://www.chicagoparent.com/magazines/chicago-parent/2012-may/going-places/nookies.

Next week I’m scheduled to attend the National Restaurant Association Show  in Chicago on behalf of Chicago Parent. I am specifically going to learn more about their new initiative Kids LiveWell . Restaurants across the country are recognizing the epidemic of childhood obesity and, apparently, many have made the commitment to offer “healthful” options. I am hoping to find more local places I can visit and write about.

My own sons are pretty healthy eaters, but burgers and fries are always the top choices for my oldest. As I make the commitment to actively scoping out restaurants with better options, my sons have no choice but to go along for the ride. I hope I can get them on board.

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