NRA program for healthful kids’ meals growsA program aimed at providing healthful foods for kids in restaurants has grown to include 150 restaurant brands.

More than 42,000 locations nationwide now participate in the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program, according to a news release from the Washington, D.C.-based association.

Launched in July 2011, the campaign covers theme parks, resorts and museums in addition to traditional chain and independent restaurants.

“We are excited to celebrate Kids LiveWell’s third anniversary and the extraordinary progress of the program in that short period of time,” Dawn Sweeney, the association’s president and chief executive officer, said in the release. “Consumers are eager for healthful options, and the success of Kids LiveWell has shown that restaurants and foodservice companies are enthusiastic to provide those nutritious choices.”

When Kids LiveWell started, it had 19 restaurant brands and 15,000 locations.

To celebrate Kids LiveWell’s third anniversary, many restaurant partners will offer kids’ meal promotions.

To join Kids LiveWell, restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of qualifying menu items based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.

The initiative focuses on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting total calories, unhealthy fats, sugar and sodium.

Registered dietitians work with restaurants on menu choices that meet the program’s criteria.

In addition to partnering with restaurant chains, the NRA has teamed with foodservice suppliers including Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, McCormick for Chefs, PepsiCo and Sysco to help participating restaurants meet the nutrition criteria of Kids LiveWell meals.

The California Milk Advisory Board is the first commodity board to sponsor the program.