May 18/New York/Rand Corp. -- A Rand Corp. study of 28,433 regular and 1,833 children's menu items in 245 national chain restaurants finds that a whopping 96% of them fail to meet recommendations for the combination of calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat set by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The findings were published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition. The study was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has made childhood obesity a major strategic initiative.

For this program, the NRA is working with the nutrition website The Kids LiveWell program’s mission is “to assist parents and children in selecting healthful menu options when dining out,” according to the website. It’s a voluntary program.

Specific criteria for both full kids' meals (entrée, side option and beverage) and side dishes alone must be met for the restaurant to be included on the “dietitian-approved” compilation. The criteria for a full meal, for example, are: 600 calories or less; less than 35% of calories from total fat; less than 10% of calories from saturated fat; less than 0.5 grams artificial trans fat; less than 35% of calories from total sugars; less than 770 mg of sodium; two or more food group.

The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC), a new organization with a mission “to revolutionize how and what Americans eat by partnering with foodservice providers and altering the foodservice industry’s incentives to provide more healthful and more natural food offerings,” launched in Washington, D.C., 10 days ago.

In a press release, organization points out that Americans now spend 50% of their food dollars -- and consume the majority of their calories -- at restaurants and other foodservice establishments. It aims “to distinguish … providers that are utilizing nutrition best practices such as the use of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits, whole grains, moderate portions sizes, and minimally processed food and beverages with higher nutritional qualities, while decreasing the use of additives …”

 From the May 21, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News