For many parents, raising children who are conscious about choosing healthy food is a lifelong mission. To speed this process up, popular taco, burger, and barbecue restaurants across the nation will start serving up some healthier menu items today that are sure to please even the pickiest youngsters.

Health conscious foodies should be pleased to see about 1,500 restaurants, including 19 popular food chains, offer healthier entrees and appetizers with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy.

Healthy Dining’s team of registered dietitians and the National Restaurant Association kicked off the “Kids LiveWell” initiative nationwide on Wednesday.

The Kids LiveWell website officially launched Tuesday night and includes zip code locators, nutritional criteria, articles written by dietitians, restaurant guides and testimonials.

A new phone app will be launched in the coming days to help those on the road, organizers said.

IHOP, Chili’s, Outback, McDonald’s, Captain D’s, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and hundreds more restaurants have joined the campaign.

Margo Wootan, spokesperson for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said offering healthier kids’ meals at restaurants is important because children are getting about a third of their calories from eating out, and eating out is a big contributor to obesity.

“Kids’ meals have become synonymous with junk,” she said.

“They are usually a hamburger, a slice of pizza or fried chicken tenders with a side of french fries and a soda.”

The new initiative, which has never been attempted on this scale before now, will continue adding new restaurant choices every week.

Many meals that fit into the program will carry an icon of a red apple on the menu.

Organizers said the menu items must meet strict nutritional guidelines and include an entree, side dish and beverage and contain 600 calories or less, plus meet other nutritional criteria.

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